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Lesson 2 - Meeting the Needs of an Aging Population

This lesson was written by The Critical Thinking Consortium with editorial input and subject matter expertise from Statistics Canada's Education Outreach Program and Demography Division.


Learners will examine population trends and predict how the age of the majority of Canadians will change 15 years from now in various geographic areas. They will gather statistical evidence that supports their projection. Learners will then identify potential challenges related to anticipated changes in the age of the population for various sectors of society and determine the most significant of these challenges.  

Suggested grade level and subject areas

Intermediate, secondary – Grades 7 to 10
History, Social studies, Geography, Civics, Family studies


Learners will demonstrate:

  • understanding of the nature of population change in Canada
  • understanding of the potential impacts of demographic shifts
  • ability to interpret various population graphs and draw inferences from statistical data
  • ability to effectively support decisions with appropriate evidence


Classroom instructions

Activity 1: Predict the age of Canada's population

Invite learners to consider the age of Canada's population by examining the following information from the 2006 Census:

The animated population pyramids are valuable sources of information for this activity. Learners may require direction in using and interpreting them. A population pyramid illustrates a population's percentages of males and females of different ages. While these animated population pyramids progress through the years 1956 to 2006, you can control the progression by using the pause, backward or forward buttons. Ask learners to consider what the shape of the population pyramids indicate about the age of that population. For example, what do the shapes of the population pyramids for British Columbia and Nunavut suggest about the future ages of their populations? More information about interpreting population pyramids can be found at the following link:
The Population Pyramid

Organize learners into teams and assign each team a paired set of geographic areas (e.g., two provinces, two regions, two cities or towns). If possible, ensure that each of the different types of geographic areas is assigned. Provide each learner with two copies of Handout 1: Age of population projection - one copy for each of the two assigned areas.

Invite learners to think ahead fifteen years from now and predict whether the average age of the majority of people in each assigned area will be significantly older, somewhat older, the same, somewhat younger, or significantly younger. Direct learners to identify three pieces of evidence from the census data found in the links listed above to support their projection for each assigned area.

Assess learner responses using the first part of Evaluation rubric 1: Assessing evidence and challenges.

Activity 2: Identify potential challenges

Organize learners into teams of two or three. Assign each team one of the stakeholder groups (for example, a university, a political party, a housing developer) listed in Handout 2: Sample stakeholder groups. Ask learners to consider the critical question 'What challenges will current population trends pose for your assigned organization or business 15 years from now?'

Provide each learner with a copy of Handout 3: Challenges of anticipated change in age of population. Instruct each team of learners to record the name of their assigned stakeholder group and choose a geographic area and age projection that was noted on one of their Handout 1: Age of population projection charts. (For example, they might have noted that the population of Parksville, B.C., will be significantly older.)

Invite learners to consider the challenges that will be posed by the changing age of the population. Learners should consider challenges in five dimensions:

  • staffing
  • clients/customers
  • products/services
  • accessibility
  • cost and price.

The questions in the left-hand column of Handout 3 will guide them in identifying potential challenges and finding supporting evidence in the documents. For example, learners who represent a political party in a province that is rapidly aging might note in the 'accessibility' category that it may be a challenge for people to get to election voting stations 15 years from now.

Remind learners that every challenge should be paired with supporting evidence or data. They can find evidence in the documents they examined in Activity 1, as well as in the following sites:

Assess learner responses using second part of Evaluation rubric 1: Assessing evidence and challenges.

Activity 3: Determine the most significant challenges

Encourage learners to share the challenges they identified for their province/territory, region or city with other members of the class. Ask learners to reflect on the challenges that all groups report and identify any collective trends that might be evident. For example, learners might indicate that finding appropriately trained and qualified staff may be a challenge encountered by many organizations and businesses as Canada's population ages.

Provide each learner with a copy of Handout 4: Ranking the challenges posed by projected population change in Canada. Invite learners to rank the five most significant challenges that shifting age demographics will present to Canada in the future.

The significance of a challenge is determined by the following criteria:

Breadth: How many people are affected by the challenge, or how widely are its effects felt?
Depth: How major or dramatic is the challenge?
Duration: For what length of time are the effects of the challenge felt?

For example, consider the opening of a new store in a community. The breadth of the impact is small if only three new jobs are created, but a megastore that creates hundreds of new jobs will affect many people. The depth of the impact on people's lives may be limited if the new store does not affect the operations of existing businesses, damage the environment, or influence consumers' habits. However, a new megastore can have a deep impact if it causes smaller businesses to close, damages the environment or contributes to the homogenization of the community. The duration of the impact can be limited if changes in consumer behaviour or in the operations of other businesses are temporary. On the other hand, the effects will be felt for a much longer time if these changes are permanent.

If you wish, you could also ask learners to identify actions or strategies that address the challenges of current trends in the age of the population.  

Encourage learners to share their rankings and explanations while you record all the challenges they mention. Then invite the class to consider the list of challenges related to Canada's aging population and to rank the three most significant ones. Remind learners to consider the criteria for determining significance when selecting the top three challenges.

Assess learner responses using Evaluation rubric 2: Assessing ranking and justification.