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Next to the 55 to 64 age group, the very elderly group (80 years or older) experienced the largest increase in population compared with 2001 (+25%). As a result, the number of people aged 80 and over topped the 1 million mark for the first time between 2001 and 2006. There were 1,167,310 persons in that group according to the 2006 Census, compared with just over 180,000 in 1956. Canada has never had so many very elderly people, which could have an impact on the demand for health care services in particular.
Figure 5 Number of persons aged 80 years and over in the Canadian population, 1956 to 2006
More than a quarter of all seniors were aged 80 years or over in 2006. The proportion of people aged 80 and over in the 65-and-over population was 26.9% in 2006, up from 24.0% in 2001. The proportion in 1956 was 14.6%, or one person in seven.
The majority (64.6%) of the very elderly were women, because the latter have a higher life expectancy than men (82.5 years compared with 77.7 years in 2004). However, the life expectancy gap between the sexes, which was 4.8 years in 2004, has been narrowing since the late 1970s. If the trend continues, it will eventually produce a better balance between the sexes at older ages, decreasing for example the number of women living alone. This could have an impact on the future demand for home-care services required by the very elderly persons.