Atlantic Canada’s independent voice on economic issues

News Releases

Wide-Ranging Implications of Atlantic Canada’s Aging Population

Date: January 21, 2021

For Immediate Release

HALIFAX – Atlantic Canada’s population, already the oldest in Canada, is aging rapidly. Twenty years ago there were twice as many young people (19 or younger) than seniors (those 65 or older) in the Atlantic region. By 2040, there will be three seniors for every two young people. This has significant implications for the region’s economy, according to a new report from the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC), the second in its Looking Ahead series.

Seniors in Atlantic Canada
APEC projects the number of seniors will increase by 32% over the next two decades, with the most rapid growth among older seniors. “The number of Atlantic Canadian seniors aged 75 and older will double by 2040,” says APEC’s Senior Policy Analyst, Fred Bergman.

“We estimate Atlantic health care costs will rise by 27% by 2040 simply due to the population aging.” says Bergman. Assisted living facilities will also be in greater demand, as nearly one in three people aged 85 and older live in a collective dwelling. APEC estimates that the region will need another 25,000 places in nursing or senior homes by 2040.

Seniors also volunteer over 200 hours a year on average - 50% more than the rest of the population. APEC projects there will be an increase of 10 million annual volunteer hours from Atlantic seniors by 2030.

Youth in Atlantic Canada
The number of youth has halved since 1980. APEC projects the number of young people will decline by a further 9% by 2040, meaning fewer school children and students. While this implies a modest reduction in the number of schools and teachers needed, the number of teachers increased by 16% from 2001-2016, despite the number of children falling by 20%.

APEC projects a steeper drop in the number of 18 to 24 years old. A 15% decline by 2040 will further reduce local enrolments at regional post-secondary institutions which have been actively recruiting out-of-region students for several years.

Succession Planning and Atlantic Canada’s Aging Workforce
The aging population and growing number of retirements are having dramatic effects on Atlantic Canada’s labour market. Thirty years ago there were 20 young workers entering the job market for every ten retirees. Today there are just seven – not nearly enough to replace retirees. APEC does not expect this to materially change over the next two decades.

Employers therefore need a multi-pronged HR strategy. Primary industries – agriculture, fishing, forestry, mining and oil and gas – transportation and construction have some of the oldest workforces in the region.

Succession planning will also be important for small and family-owned firms. For example, about 40% of self-employed workers are currently 55 years or older, implying about 25,000 small businesses in Atlantic Canada may be looking for new owners over the next two decades. 

APEC’s Looking Ahead series is designed to assess Atlantic Canada’s demographic and economic future, and to stimulate informed discussion on how stakeholders can best respond. Past and current bulletins are available on APEC’s website at

Download the full report [English] [French]

To schedule an interview with APEC Senior Policy Analyst, Fred Bergman, please contact: 

Erica Parrill 
Communications Manager 
Mobile: 902-877-2159

Copyright © 2021 - Atlantic Provinces Economic Council. All rights reserved.Website Design by Cossette