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Demand for Long-Term Care Beds in Canada Could Nearly Double in Little More Than 15 Years

Ottawa, November 27, 2017—Canada could need to build 42,000 new long-term care beds in just the next five years to meet the needs of an aging population without changes to how health care for seniors is being delivered. By 2035, this number could increase to 199,000—nearly double the 255,000 beds available in 2016, according to a new Conference Board of Canada report released today.

“As the baby boomers enter their golden years and begin requiring assistance in their day-to-day lives, there will be a significant and sustained increase in demand for long-term care. Providing adequate long-term care is one of a number of solutions that is more efficient and less costly than one common alternative of housing seniors in hospital beds,” said Louis Thériault, Vice-President, Industry Strategy and Public Policy, The Conference Board of Canada. “Policy makers should prepare for the future needs of an aging population.”


  • Canada could need 43,000 new long-term care beds over the next five years. By 2035, we could need an additional 199,000 beds, nearly double the current level of 255,000 beds.
  • These new beds would require approximately $64 billion in capital spending, while operating the new beds would require roughly $130 billion between 2018 and 2035.
  • This investment and spending would have positive effects on the economy. Direct, indirect and induced effects would contribute a total of $235 billion to real GDP over the coming two decades, supporting an average of 123,000 jobs per year, and generating $71 billion in new revenue for governments.
  • Despite the substantial cost of building and operating these beds, the benefits would outweigh the costs.

Wait-lists for long-term beds are already high. In 2015, nearly 26,500 people were on the wait-list in Ontario, equivalent to about one-third the number of available long-term care beds. In addition, the number of Canadians with the highest demand for long-term care, those aged 75 and up, will be growing rapidly over the coming years. In 2016, there were approximately 721,000 Canadians aged 85 to 94 and about 16 per cent (118,000) were living in a long-term care facility or alternative level of care bed (people who require long-term care but who are living in an acute care bed in a hospital because space is not available at a long-term care facility). A little more than 15 years from now, the population in this age group will more than double to close to 1.5 million and demand for long-term care beds among this cohort could reach 239,000 without the implementation of new models of care for seniors. Similar trends will also occur in other age groups among the baby boom generation. In all, demand for long-term care is expected to average annual increases of 10,500 new beds from 2017 to 2035 in a business as usual scenario.

These new beds would cost an estimated $64 billion to build and roughly $130 billion to operate. While this represents a significant cost, this increased spending would have some positive impacts on the economy. Spending on construction and equipment for the new beds would support an average of 29,000 jobs a year, contribute $58 billion to Canada’s GDP over the forecast period, and generate an additional $18 billion in tax revenues for governments. In addition, the operating spending for the new beds would contribute $177 billion to GDP over the same period, support an average of 94,000 jobs a year and generate an additional $53 billion in tax revenues.

While the capital investments required would be significant, the report concludes that the benefits of building the new beds would outweigh the costs. The additional government revenues earned from the economic activity associated with the construction and operation of the facilities, as well as the savings to the health care system due to the reduction of seniors in hospital beds, would more than make up the costs.

The report, Sizing Up the Challenge: Meeting the Demand for Long-Term Care in Canada, was funded by the Canadian Medical Association and available to download from our e-Library.

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