Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population


Vol. 5 No. 2

Summer 2003

SEDAP (Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population) is a multidisciplinary research program studying a wide range of aging-related issues and is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. SEDAP is centred at McMaster University and involves researchers from that institution as well as from the University of British Columbia, Université de Montréal, Queen's and the University of Toronto.


I. SEDAP Conference Papers

The SEDAP conference entitled "Moving Towards an Older Society" was held at McMaster University on April 10 and 11, 2003. Some of the papers and presentations given at the conference are now available on the SEDAP website.

II. SEDAP Research Papers

SEDAP Research Papers are available on the SEDAP website at no cost. Paper copies may be obtained for a nominal charge. Please contact Mrs. Gail Kalika, Department of Economics, KTH-426, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ont., Canada, L8S 4M4.

Brief descriptions follow of the most recently released papers in the SEDAP series.

SEDAP Research Paper No. 95:

Using Structural Equation Modeling to Understand the Role of Informal and Formal Supports on the Well-being of Caregivers of Persons with Dementia

Parminder Raina (Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University), Chris McIntyre (Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University), Bin Zhu (Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University), Ian McDowell (Epidemiology and Community Medicine, University of Ottawa), Lina Santaguida (Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University), Betsy Kristjansson (Centre for Global Health, University of Ottawa), Alexandra Hendricks (Institute of Health of the Elderly, University of Ottawa) and Larry W. Chambers (Epidemiology and Community Medicine, University of Ottawa)

This study examines the well-being of caregivers of elderly people with dementia, considering such factors as caregiver characteristics (age, education level, degree of kinship with the care receiver), the level of care required by the recipient and the level of formal and informal support used. The data are from the Canadian Study of Health and Aging, using a sample of 327 informal caregivers of study subjects with dementia who were living in the community. The mean age of caregivers was 61.7 years and care recipients 82.2 years.

The authors find that an increase in the recipient's disability was associated with a decrease in the physical and psychological well-being of the caregiver. The poor physical health associated with an increase in the recipient's disability was not significantly modified by the use of informal and formal supports. However, the increase in the recipient's disability was associated with increased use of informal support and increased use of informal support was associated with better psychological well-being of caregivers. The caregivers' own characteristics were associated with physical health but this effect was not mediated by informal and formal supports. No statistically significant direct association was observed between caregiver characteristics and psychological well-being. However, an increase in caregiver characteristics, such as age and education level, was associated with lower use of formal support.

The authors note that a limitation of their study is their use of cross- sectional rather than longitudinal data.

SEDAP Research Paper No. 96:

Helping to Build and Rebuild Secure Lives and Futures: Intergenerational Financial Transfers from Parents to Adult Children and Grandchildren

Jenny Ploeg (School of Nursing, McMaster University), Lori Campbell, Margaret Denton, Anju Joshi and Sharon Davies (Gerontological Studies, McMaster University)

Research on intergenerational financial transfers has been primarily quantitative, examining the association between financial transfers and selected characteristics of parents and children. However, little is known about the specific types of financial assistance that are provided by older parents to their adult children and grandchildren, what motivates them to provide this assistance, and the meanings such transfers hold for the older persons themselves. This paper seeks to address these issues.

A convenience sample of persons aged 55 years and older from across Canada was recruited through a variety of sources, including newsletters, newspapers, seniors' magazines, senior day centres and websites. One hundred and thirty-eight persons participated in the study. The majority of the participants were female (54%) and the mean age of participants was 71. Almost one half of the sample had a university degree (46%) and close to one half had an income of $60,000 or higher (43%). Of the sample, 6% did not have children and 18% did not have grandchildren.

Financial assistance to adult children was most commonly for the purchase of a home or cottage or for the purchase of a car. Financial assistance to grandchildren was most often in the form of a trust or education fund. The primary motivations for providing such assistance were reported as feelings of family love, the needs of children and grandchildren in combination with the older persons' ability to provide assistance, having a family history of assistance and passing on an early inheritance.

SEDAP Research Paper No. 97:

Geographic Dimensions of Aging in Canada 1991-2001

Eric G. Moore and Michael A. Pacey (Geography, Queen's University)

This paper addresses the same issues and follows the same methodology as a previous SEDAP research paper (Moore et al., Geographic Dimensions of Aging: The Canadian Experience 1991- 1996, SEDAP Research Paper No. 23; see SEDAP Bulletin Vol.2 No. 3, Autumn 2000, for a summary). The present paper updates the work to 2001.

The authors find that the relative roles of aging-in-place and net migration have changed somewhat between 1991-96 and 1996-2001. From 1991-96, aging-in-place was the dominant force in most provinces, although in six provinces, net migration served to ameliorate the rate of aging. However, from 1996 to 2001, patterns shifted and only two provinces (Ontario and Alberta) experienced migration whose net effects helped reduce the rate of aging. Most dramatic was the change occurring in British Columbia. In 1991, the large influx of younger individuals in that province more than offset both the arrival of older individuals and the aging of the resident population, but by 2001 the effects of net migration were virtually zero. The attractiveness of British Columbia, and of Vancouver in particular, to younger migrants fell as that province's economy faltered.

SEDAP Research Paper No. 98:

Examining the "Healthy Immigrant Effect" in Later Life: Findings from the Canadian Community Health Survey

Ellen M. Gee (Sociology and Anthropology, Simon Fraser University), Karen M. Kobayashi (Sociology, University of Victoria) and Steven G. Prus (Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University)

The "healthy immigrant effect" hypothesis maintains that recent immigrants are healthier than their Canadian-born counterparts as healthier individuals self-select into the immigration process and the health requirements for immigration to Canada tend to disqualify people with serious medical conditions. It is also hypothesized that this health status advantage decreases over time due to the adoption of the host country's lifestyle behaviours by the immigrant population. This paper investigates the "healthy immigrant effect" for immigrants to Canada aged 45-64 and 65+, who comprised approximately 36 % and 19% , respectively, of the total adult immigrant population in Canada in 2001.

The data used in the analysis are from Statistics Canada's 2000- 2001 Canadian Community Health Survey Cycle 1.1 (public-use microfile). Three measures of health status are reported, along with a number of socio-economic, immigrant-status and health-behaviour variables. Sample weights are used and values are imputed for missing data. Results are reported with and without the use of control variables, and broken down by age and gender.

The authors conclude that the healthy immigrant effect applies to mid-life (age 45-64) immigrants to Canada. Mid-life immigrants who immigrated less than 10 years ago have better functional and self-rated health compared to those who immigrated 10 or more years ago. The latter group's health status is similar to Canadian-born persons. Among those age 65+, recent immigrants have poorer health compared to longer-term residents and the Canadian-born. This disadvantage disappears after controlling for selected socio-demographic, socio- economic and health-behaviour variables. When the data are examined by age and gender, support for the healthy immigrant effect is found only for men in mid-life.

The paper concludes with a number of policy recommendations.

editor: Deb Fretz -
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Last revised: Jun 9, 2003.