Debunking healthcare fears

May 16, 2002, vol. 24, no. 2
By Carol Thorbes



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Lillian Zimmerman (left), a research associate at Simon Fraser University's gerontology centre, puts little stock in the prevailing fear that millions more aged Canadians are about to overtax the nation's healthcare system.

Zimmerman is more perturbed about the dissemination of such “doom and gloom scenarios” by “politicians of all stripes, right wing think tanks and often the media,” as she puts it.

That's why this year's John K. Friesen conference, organized by Zimmerman and her colleagues, will aim to separate fact from fiction about the impact of Canada's swelling senior population on healthcare and the economy.

The two day gerontology conference, Boomers Come of Retirement Age: What are the Prospects?, takes place June 6-7 at SFU's Harbour Centre campus.

Stats Canada figures indicate an estimated eight million baby boomers will turn 65 between 2011 and 2029, assuming they all live to that age.

“The prevailing belief that population aging is creating a crisis with regard to sustainability of Canada's social programs is simplistic and scares people when in fact they may not need to be scared,” argues Zimmerman.
“For one thing, boomers in general are more concerned with health and fitness than their predecessors, so they'll likely be healthier seniors.”

Noted social and health researchers will present studies of strategies used in other provinces and countries to make healthcare and pensions sustainable and manageable in the face of projected population aging.

Michael Kane, a personal finance columnist with the Vancouver Sun, will chair a panel discussion on the media's influence on social policy.

Journalists Chris Wood and Rick Salutin, media consultant Paul Sullivan and Ellen Gee, a SFU sociologist and demographer, will respond to a presentation made by SFU communication professor Robert Hackett.

Zimmerman says the discussion will look at the media's coverage of studies that support a crisis view of retiring baby boomers.

For more information about the conference and to register visit www.harbour.sfu.ca/gero or call 604-291-5062.•

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