The latest census confirms the three Maritime provinces have the highest percentage of senior citizens in Canada, with Nova Scotia topping the list.

Jack Jones volunteers in the Halifax area and he says he loves demolishing misconceptions about seniors.

Seventy per cent of people over age 65 are independent and Jones is no exception. The 82-year-old has never really retired as he keeps busy running various programs to help seniors.

“Part of the program I run allows people to stay at home because somebody’s checking on them,” says Jones. “A generation ago they would have ended up in a nursing home, so we help the government too.”

But Jones also admits the landscape is changing.

According to the census, there are more than 153,000 seniors living in Nova Scotia, more than 123,000 in New Brunswick and more than 22,000 on Prince Edward Island.

“It’s a trend. It’s not something new,” says New Brunswick Deputy Premier Paul Robichaud. “It’s not something that happened today. It’s information from StatsCan from over the last four years.”

The number of children has increased in the region, but it comes too little too late to keep many schools from closing, and the aging population will put more strain on health care, nursing homes and many other public services.

Despite the current economic conditions, a worker shortage is also expected in the near future.

In fact, in Atlantic Canada, it’s not coming,” says Charles Cirtwill with the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies. “It has been here for about five or ten years in some regions.”

Dr. Janice Keefe of the Nova Scotia Centre for Aging says older workers should be encouraged to stay on the job and to remain independent.

“Where are people living? Do we have appropriate transportation and support services to help people to live in the area of residence they want to?” she says.

Jones says seniors have a responsibility to help each other, and themselves, and he says he plans to do what he can to help seniors in his area.

Generations X and Y will be hardest hit by the trend as they will likely end up carrying the tax burden for the Baby Boomers.

The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies says major adjustments will need to be made as a result and the lifestyles of Canadians will change, with a greater focus on looking after family, which may make Canada’s social structure look much as it did in the 1920s.

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