By Kelsey Verboom

Canada is becoming a nation of oldies (but not necessarily mouldies!).

Recently released census data shows that Canada has a higher proportion of seniors than ever before a trend that has wide-reaching implications for our countrys social structure, health care, housing, and economic makeup.

The population of those over the age of 65 has surged to nearly five million during the past five years, according to Statistics Canada. This marks a 14.1 per cent growth since the last official count: more than double the 5.9 per cent increase for the population as a whole.

And the trend is expected to keep gaining speed, as the fastest-growing age group (people aged 60 to 64) are poised to retire and enter their golden years.

While the trend of a greying population gains momentum, its important that the rest of the younger generations keep up and stay in touch with whats happening.

That doesnt just mean thinking about where to house your aging parents or grandparents when they can no longer live alone; it means really looking at the value an older population can bring to family life, and to society as a whole.

For starters, there is a large demographic of the senior population who is retired, financially well-off, and looking to spend their hard-earned cash doing things they enjoy, which is a boost to the economy.

But much more importantly, there is a huge number of people with valuable experience and relevant skills waiting to be shared: gems of wisdom in life, love, and business. Since starting to work at the paper, Ive felt privileged to learn from some of our valleys finest seniors like Ray Crook, Anne Picton, Ed Kluczny, and Margaret Christensen, to name only a few.

Locally, the staff and students at Eileen Madson Primary School have tapped into this valuable resource with their successful and much-lauded teaching program where students take their classroom to Columbia House and learn from their aged counterparts.

Also, the currently-under-construction facility at Columbia Gardens to house more long-term care beds is a great step to help care for our aging population.

Dont forget the age-old (pardon the pun) clich: some things only get better with age.