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Canada will need 199,000 long-term care beds by 2035

It’s an equation that can’t be ignored. The older we get, the more likely it is that some of us will need assistance beyond what we can receive in our own homes. As Canada’s population ages, building new long-term care capacity will enable our communities to provide better care to their citizens and generate economic growth, says a new study by the Conference Board of Canada.

Currently, of the 721,000 Canadians aged 85–94 years, 16% live in either a long-term care facility or an acute-care bed in a hospital because they can’t access a long-term care bed. The study, funded by the CMA, indicates that 1.5 million Canadians will be in that age cohort by 2035, and 239,000 of them could need long-term care beds. Meeting the demand for those beds will require $64 billion in one-time cost and $130 billion in ongoing operating funds.

Canada will need to build 42,000 new long-term care beds in just the next five years.

 “As the baby boomers enter their golden years and begin requiring assistance in their day-to-day lives, there will be a significant and sustained increase in demand for long-term care,” says Louis Thériault, the Conference Board’s vice-president of industry, strategy and public policy. “Providing adequate long-term care is one of a number of solutions that is more efficient and less costly than one common alternative of housing seniors in hospital beds. Policy makers should prepare for the future needs of an aging population.”

 According to study author Robyn Gibbard, the direct, indirect and induced effects of increasing the number of long-term care beds would contribute $235 billion to real GDP over the coming 20 years, support an average of 123,000 jobs per year, and generate $71 billion in new revenue for governments.

 Despite the cost of building and maintaining the necessary long-term care spaces, Gibbard concludes that the benefits will outweigh the investment.

That is why the CMA is recommending that the federal government include capital investments in long-term care homes, including retrofit and renovation, as part of its commitment to invest in social infrastructure.

To learn more about what the CMA is advocating for, read our recommendation on residential care facilities.