‘Significant’ health gaps found between Canadian and immigrant seniors

May 18, 2017

By Nicholas Keung, Canadian Immigrant |

Eighty-year-old Sung-hak Choi keeps active and healthy by volunteering in the community and caring for her seven grandchildren.

“There are many challenges for immigrant seniors to stay healthy. Many come with their children, at an older age. They are cut off from the support network in their old country” said Choi, who immigrated to Canada in 1982 with her family and four children.

“I am lucky I can communicate in English. Language is the biggest barrier for these seniors. They are not familiar with the system here and must depend on other people who can speak English to help them.”

With the latest census showing more seniors than children living in Canada, a new study by the Wellesley Institute has identified “significant” disparities in self-reported health and mental health between Canadian and immigrant seniors, especially those who are “racialized” — or racial minorities — and from non-English background.

“Immigrant seniors, especially those who arrived more recently, reported poorer health status, in both overall health and mental health, than non-immigrant seniors,” said the report, “Seniors’ Health in the GTA,” released Tuesday.
“While only 19 per cent of non-immigrant seniors reported fair/poor health, 34 per cent of recent and mid-term immigrants and 26 per cent of long-term immigrants rated their health as fair/poor. Similar patterns were found in self-reported mental health.”

According to census data released in May, there were 5.9 million people aged 65 and older in Canada, just above the 5.8 million children under 14 — showing the country’s elderly population surpassing its youth population for the first time.

Read more