The proportion of the population that is over 65 has increased by 68% over the past two decades (Turcotte & Schellenberg, 2007). As the Canadian population ages, an increasing number of older adults are becoming caregivers. In Canada, one in four caregivers is over age 65, many of whom are likely to experience their own age/health related challenges, and are at risk of becoming are recipients themselves. In 2002, more than 324,000 Canadian seniors provided care to other seniors with long-term health conditions (Canadian Home Care Association, 2007). Research also shows that the number of hours dedicated to caregiving increases with the age of the caregiver (Stobert & Cranswick, 2004).
Many seniors live with modest or low incomes. In 2006, the average after-tax income of senior couples was $41,400, with the median income for unattached seniors at $20,800. Single older women in particular may have a low-income. Unlike the general population, among spousal caregivers seniors 75+ both sexes provide equal amounts of care. While many older care recipients experience positive effects from aging in place within their homes, that can also produce strain on their caregiver children who are becoming seniors themselves. On the other side, grandparents may become primarily responsible for the care of their grandchildren, either through formal or informal custodial agreements. This new caring role may be taken on, for example, as a result of parental disability, death, imprisonment, substance abuse and child neglect, abuse or abandonment.
Issues of older caregivers are not well defined in research. Older caregivers are speculated to be at a greater risk for injury and subsequent activity limitations and participation restrictions than younger counterparts. Further, older caregivers may also be dealing with their own health issues. One study found that only 18% of Canadian seniors who are caregivers get any kind of break from their caregiving duties (Canadian Home Care Association, 2007). These older caregivers will be increasingly relied upon in the future, yet they must also safeguard their own health to be able to continue to care for themselves (Jull, 2010).