In Focus: Senior Caregivers in Canada

Caregiving is a part of family life, and family caregivers play a crucial role in providing, arranging and sometimes paying for care for their loved ones. While there has been progress over the past decade in recognizing and celebrating the importance and impact of Canada’s 8.1 million caregivers, senior caregivers are often overlooked in the narrative despite accounting for more than 1 in 8 caregivers in 2012.((Maire Sinha, “Portrait of Caregivers, 2012,” Spotlight on Canadians: Results from the General Social Survey, Statistics Canada catalogue no. 89-652-X (September 2013). Link:

Senior caregivers make unique and valuable contributions to family caregiving in Canada, though they can also have unique needs resulting from their advanced age. It can be a complex caregiving experience, as many provide care while managing their other responsibilities in workplaces and communities across the country (sometimes while receiving care themselves).

Seniors make significant contributions to caregiving in Canada((Learn more in A Snapshot of Family Caregiving and Work in Canada.))

  • In 2012, nearly 1 million seniors in Canada (966,000) provided care to a family member or friend with a long-term health condition, disability or aging need (12% of all caregivers).((Sinha, 2012.))
  • In 2012, senior caregivers were most likely to spend the longest hours per week providing care, partly due to their higher likelihood of caring for a spouse (spouses typically require greater time commitments for care).((Sinha, 2012.))
    • Nearly one-quarter (23%) of senior caregivers provided 20 or more hours of care per week, approximately twice the rate of carers aged 45 to 54 (13%) and young carers aged 15 to 24 (10%).((Sinha, 2012.))

Many senior caregivers balance their caregiving with paid work and volunteering((Learn more in Modern Family Finances: Seniors in Canada and Modern Family Finances: Income in Canada.))

  • In 2017, 14.2% of seniors were in the paid labour market (18.7% of men, 10.4% of women), more than double the rate in 2000 (6%).((Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey Estimates (LFS), by Sex and Detailed Age Group (CANSIM Table 282-0002), page last updated January 4, 2018. Link:
  • In 2015, one in five (19.8%) seniors in Canada (1.1 million) worked at some point – nearly twice the rate in 1995 (10.1%). Men were more likely than women to report having worked at some point that year (25.7% and 14.6%, respectively).((Statistics Canada, “Census in Brief: Working Seniors in Canada,” Analytical Products, 2016 Census, Statistics Canada catalogue no. 98-200-X-2016027 (November 29, 2017). Link:

Caregiving can have an impact on the well-being of senior carers

  • Research shows that caregiving can have a positive impact on the well-being of caregivers themselves, providing them with a sense of personal growth and renewed meaning and purpose in life, assurance and greater awareness of the care being provided, and a sense of “giving back” to someone who has cared for them.((American Psychological Association, “Positive Aspects of Caregiving,” Public Interest Directorate Reports (January 2011). Link:
  • Caregiving can also have a negative impact on the well-being of caregivers. Nearly 3 in 10 people (28%) who provided care in 2012 said that they found it “somewhat or very” stressful, and 1 in 5 (19%) said that their “physical and emotional health suffered” as a result of their caregiving responsibilities.((Sinha, 2012.))

Download In Focus: Senior Caregivers in Canada.

The Vanier Institute of the Family is a national, independent, charitable organization dedicated to understanding the diversity and complexity of families and the reality of family life in Canada. The Institute offers access to a range of publications, research initiatives, presentations and social media content to enhance the national understanding of how families interact with, have an impact on and are affected by social, economic, environmental and cultural forces.

Learn more about family caregiving in Canada:

Learn more about seniors and family relationships in Canada:

Published on March 29, 2018

Upcoming Event: Families, Mobility, and Work Atlantic Canada Symposium (May 2018)

Do you work with families that are separated due to employment in oil and gas, construction, trucking, health care, forestry, the military, fishing, agriculture, education, tourism or some other type of employment? Are you part of a family impacted by this type of employment?

From May 15 to 17, 2018, the Families, Mobility, and Work Atlantic Canadian Symposium will examine intersections between diverse families, work situations and employment-related geographical mobility in the Canadian context. This event will bring together policy and civil society leaders, researchers studying families and mobility, and families directly impacted by work-related mobility to facilitate dialogue and knowledge-sharing with a focus on leading and emerging policy and practices at home, at work and in the community.

Where: University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, PEI

When: Tuesday, May 15, 2018, 6:00 p.m. to Thursday, May 17, 2018, 3:30 p.m. ADT (view schedule)

Register: Eventbrite

Themes for discussion will include:

In the Home

  • What role does work-related mobility play in family planning, conception/fertility and parenthood?
  • How are parenting and child care, caregiving and elder care, or care for persons with disabilities impacted by employment-related geographical mobility? How are these care relationships impacted by extended absence due to mobility for work?
  • How does coming to Atlantic Canada for temporary work impact international labour migrants and their families who reside in their place of origin?

In the Workplace

  • How are labour and professional organizations and employers accommodating family status in response to extended absences?
  • In what ways do precarious employment or atypical work schedules combine with work-related mobility to impact the family and individual well-being of mobile workers?

In the Community

  • How does mobility impact the communities that mobile workers live in/leave from and work in/go to? How does this reverberate back to impact their families?
  • How are diverse health care professionals, community service providers, educators, spiritual advisors/faith leaders and others responding and adapting to best meet the needs of families affected by extended commuting for work?

The Symposium is being organized by the SSHRC-funded Tale of Two Islands and On the Move Partnership research projects and in collaboration with the Vanier Institute of the Family, the University of Prince Edward Island and Memorial University of Newfoundland. Funding for this event has been received through a SSHRC Connections Grant.

The On the Move Partnership is a research initiative with international links investigating workers’ extended travel and related absence from their places of permanent residence for the purpose of, and as part of, their employment. On the Move is a collaboration between the Vanier Institute of the Family and more than 40 researchers from 17 disciplines and 22 universities across Canada and internationally, working with more than 30 community partners to design and carry out research, interpret results and disseminate findings. On the Move is a project of the SafetyNet Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Research at Memorial University of Newfoundland funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Newfoundland and Labrador Research Development Corporation (RDC), the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and numerous universities and partners.

Learn more about family mobility in Canada:

Published on March 9, 2018


Modern Family Finances: Income in Canada (January 2018)

Much like families themselves, family finances in Canada is a topic characterized by diversity, complexity and perpetual evolution. Family income is no exception. 2016 Census data shows that households across Canada receive income from a variety of sources, and these economic arrangements change over time as families adapt and react to social, economic, cultural and environmental forces.

The complex and multi-faceted nature of family finances can make it a difficult topic to fully comprehend. No measure of family finances exists in isolation, and all are interconnected: if a family’s income is too low, then it may be impossible for them to build savings; if expenses are too high, debt may be just around the corner; if debt is too high, it can reduce family wealth – and so on. However, much can be learned about the whole of finances by examining the topic through a family lens.

Every family household has its own unique constellation of income sources that they manage to fulfill their obligations at home and in their communities. These arrangements typically aren’t static – they evolve throughout the life cycle as family circumstances change, along with the resources available to them.

To explore this topic in further detail, the Vanier Institute has published Modern Family Finances: Income in Canada (January 2018).

Highlights include:

  • In 2015, the total median household income in Canada was approximately $70,300 before taxes ($61,300 after taxes), and $34,200 before taxes (just under $30,900 after taxes) for individuals.
  • Household income included revenue from a variety of sources, including employment income (approximately 71% of Canadians received employment income), investments (30%), CPP/QPP benefits (23%), OAS/GIS benefits (18%), the Canada Child Tax Benefit (11%), Employment Insurance benefits (9%), social assistance (5%) and more.
  • Incomes are lower than the national average and low-income rates are higher for women; First Nations, Inuk (Inuit) and Métis people; immigrants (particularly for recent immigrants and non-permanent residents); visible minorities; and persons living with disabilities.
  • In 2015, nearly one-third (32%) of married or common-law couples in Canada received “fairly equal” incomes, although, on average, women earned an estimated $0.87 for every dollar earned by men.
  • Debt is consuming a smaller share of household income than in previous decades, with the share of income devoted to servicing the interest on household debt falling from 10.8% in 1991 to 6.4% in 2015.
  • One in five (19.8%) seniors in Canada (1.1M) reported that they worked at some point in 2015 – nearly twice the rate recorded in 1995 (10.1%).
  • Many Canadians of all ages plan to keep working to ensure sufficient income as seniors, with more than one-third (36%) reporting in 2014 that ongoing employment earnings are a part of their financial retirement plan.

Income in Canada is a part of the Vanier Institute’s Modern Family Finances series, which addresses particular topics such as income and expenditures; savings and debt; and wealth and net worth. Subsequent editions in this series will focus on unique experiences such as family finances among military and Veteran families, families on the move, and families living with disability.

This bilingual resource will be updated periodically as new data emerges. Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to find out about updates, as well as other news about publications, projects and initiatives from the Vanier Institute.

Download Modern Family Finances: Income in Canada from the Vanier Institute of the Family.

Learn more about family finances in Canada:


Published on January 30, 2018

Modern Family Finances: Seniors in Canada

Canada’s population is rapidly aging, which means a growing number of seniors across the country are managing household finances in an evolving economic climate. In this context, many are choosing to remain in – or return to – the paid labour market to manage their financial responsibilities, while others focus on other diverse income sources to meet their needs.

As seniors and their families adapt their financial management strategies and their aspirations in response to this ever-changing environment, they in turn are reshaping workplaces, retirement and the economy at large. To explore the relationship between seniors and family finances, we’ve published Modern Family Finances: Seniors in Canada, which brings together statistics from a variety of sources about seniors and their economic well-being, including data about employment, income, retirement and debt among this age group.

Highlights include:

  • In 2016, the average retirement age in Canada was 63.6 years – a slow but steady increase from a low of 60.9 years in 1998.
  • More than one-third (36%) of Canadians in the labour force say that ongoing employment earnings are a part of their financial retirement plan.
  • In 2015, 3 in 10 seniors in Canada reported having employment income, with significantly higher rates among Inuit seniors (46%).
  • In 2015, nearly 1 in 7 seniors lived with low income – nearly four times the rate in 1995. Rates were higher among senior women (17%, vs. 12% among senior men), recent immigrant seniors (22.2%) and seniors reporting an Aboriginal identity (21.5%).
  • In 2015, nearly 1 in 5 seniors in Canada had “unaffordable” shelter costs, spending more than 30% of average total monthly income on housing.
  • Nearly 4 in 10 of surveyed seniors in Canada (37%) say they plan on leaving an inheritance to a grandchild.

This bilingual resource will be updated periodically as new data emerges. Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to find out about updates, as well as other news about publications, projects and initiatives from the Vanier Institute.


Download Modern Family Finances: Seniors in Canada from the Vanier Institute of the Family.


Learn more about modern family finances in Canada:


Published on November 30, 2017

Book Review: “Waiting for First Light: My Ongoing Battle with PTSD”

Author: Lieutenant-General (retd) The Honorable Roméo A. Dallaire, O.C., C.M.M., G.O.Q., M.S.C., C.D., L.O.M. (U.S.), B.ésS., LL.D. (Hon.), D.Sc.Mil (Hon.), D.U.
Toronto: Random House Canada, 2016
Review: Col. (retd) Russ Mann


Trauma can consume but it can also transform.

In his most recent work, retired General, former senator and best-selling author Roméo Dallaire brutally reveals the dark demons that haunt his nights and the desire to do good that fuels his days.

Waiting for First Light: My Ongoing Battle with PTSD is an intensely personal account that invites readers to stop and consider the magnitude of evil that surrounds the author’s tortured soul. General Dallaire is once again reaching out to the public to appeal to their sense of humanity, as he once did from Rwanda, only this time he offers an account of his own journey rather than that of the Rwandan population. He leaves nothing to the reader’s imagination in describing the terrible price that he, his friends and family have paid in the decades following the horrendous atrocities of the Rwandan genocide. The author reveals more about post-traumatic stress and its constant presence in his life than any account to date.

Those of us who journey with post-traumatic stress cannot ignore the pain and the constant struggle to channel the energy to inspire us, as it has General Dallaire, rather than bring us down. Readers seeking to understand post-traumatic stress are offered the gift of insight by a man who has channelled so much of his energy into work to create understanding, to contribute to a more humanitarian world and to call to action those who can make a difference in the lives of others. In the process, he lays bare his soul and grabs the soul of the reader, refusing to let go.

Did you know…

  • In 2016, one in seven surveyed Veterans in Canada (14%) reported living with post-traumatic stress.((Veterans Affairs Canada, “Life After Service Survey 2016 Executive Summary,” Life After Service Survey 2016 (n.d.), page last updated June 23, 2017. Link:
  • In 2013, 5.3% of Regular Forces members reported having experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in the past year (8.8% of women, 4.7% of men).((Caryn Pearson, Mark Zamorski and Teresa Janz, “Mental Health of the Canadian Armed Forces,” Health at a Glance, Statistics Canada catalogue no. 82-624-X (November 25, 2014). Link:

So many who are exposed to trauma cannot help but be effected, and the reader should consider that a man so deeply injured has given so much, contributed so much to shape and influence a better world than the one he found. If he can accomplish this much despite his wounds, imagine and try to understand how much other Veterans, first responders and those exposed to trauma could contribute if we only give them the space, support and understanding needed for them to channel their energy as General Dallaire has done.

Learn more about military and Veteran families and family experiences:

Col (retd) Russ Mann is a Special Advisor at the Vanier Institute of the Family.

Published on November 15, 2017