Aging and Demographic Change in Canadian Context/Getting Started on Social Analysis in Canada

Article excerpt

David Cheal (ed.), Aging and Demographic Change in Canadian Context (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003), 288pp. Paper. £15. ISBN 0- 8020-8505-9.

Jamie Swift, Jacqueline M. Davies, Robert G. Clarke and Michael Czerny SJ, Getting Started on Social Analysis in Canada, 4th edn (Toronto: Between The Lines, 2003, 230pp. Paper. $24.95. ISBN 1-8963-5777-6.

The 'greying' of the population of the developed world is one of the key trends that will affect society during the next half-century. The implications of a steadily aging society are profound and wide-ranging, with likely impacts on most aspects of life - from the rising costs of medical services to reduced labour force participation and the effects upon social cohesion of worsening intergenerational inequalities. Canada will not escape this 'demographic aging' process. By 2040 nearly 23 per cent (10 million) of Canadians will be over 65 years of age, compared with around 13 per cent (4 million) today. Given the litany of concerns associated with this process, it is not surprising that it was selected as a topic for the Project on Trends sponsored by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Policy Research Initiative. One outcome of this Trends Project is an excellent collection of essays edited by David Cheal, Professor of Sociology at the University of Winnipeg.

Aging and Demographic Change in Canadian Context consists of seven essays, including a scene-setting introduction by the editor. Each essay addresses a different aspect of demographic aging and its impacts upon society, and each raises some powerful questions regarding the policies required to manage the impacts and the accompanying research questions that need to be addressed. Susan A. McDaniel considers issues relating to linkages between generations. These include the changing nature of the family, income/debt differentials across generations, and the growing dependence of the elderly on a diminishing proportion of the population in work. Douglas Thorpe introduces the factors of language and culture to the equation, noting that the current demographic trends may lead to the decline of French as a vital working language in Quebec. Fundamental questions about societal attitudes to the elderly are raised. These are addressed more specifically by Ingrid Arnet Connidis in terms of the informal support systems for older persons. She notes how the changing composition of families, and of lifestyles in general, have eroded traditional support networks. Joel Prager considers the impact of an aging population upon economic productivity; Marty Thomas and Rosemary A. Venne consider issues relating to the balance between work and leisure; and Joseph A. …