Greying Nation: An Aging Population Doesn’t Have to Burden the Health Care System

by Lorne Swetlikoff, ND

By delaying and preventing the onset of degenerative conditions, naturopathic medicine can enable people to age healthier, delay retirement, and positively impact the sustainability of our health care system.

1 out of 3 Canadians is a Baby Boomer

According to Statistics Canada’s 2006 census, one out of three Canadians is a baby boomer (born between 1946-1965) and make up the largest group in our population. There is significant concern that this demographic shift will place a significant burden on our health-care system challenging its sustainability.

Age-related conditions like dementia, arthritis, and heart disease are common amongst the elderly. These conditions are degenerative and require patients to be continuously engaged with their doctors and health system. If Canadians are aging and older Canadians get age-related conditions, then health-care delivery costs are set to rise significantly. Who is going to pay for this? Certainly not younger Canadians as that population group continues to shrink.

Preventing age-related infirmities is an essential strategy in dealing with this issue. By keeping Canadians healthy, it is more likely that they will live longer, have more productive lives, perhaps retire later, and reduce health-care needs.

How do we keep Canadians healthy?

Recognize that decrepitude and degeneration are not normal aspects of aging but are states of disorder that are diagnosable, treatable, and more importantly preventable.

Our current medical system is focused on diagnosing and treating disease. This is important. but it’ a reactive approach to something that has already happened. To strengthen our system, we need to be proactive and prevent disease. Preventing degenerative diseases requires continuous assessment of health parameters and undesirable trends over the course of one’s life. Intervention then becomes a system of keeping people healthy.

The basic philosophical premise of naturopathic medicine is that there is an inherent healing power in nature and in every human being. The ND’s responsibility is to strive to understand the minimum level of intervention that will stimulate the body’ self-healing processes

Restoring unique biochemical deficiencies to a normal physiological balance and intervening with natural therapies to support a patient’s condition may help make them feel more vital, and energetic, and move them out of their decline.

Some useful steps that you can take to make sure that you increase your longevity and vitality and don’t slide into old age prematurely:

  • Undergo periodic screening for biological health markers like hormone deficiency, vitamin mineral deficiency, amino acid deficiency, chemical toxicity levels, inflammation markers, digestive analysis, blood sugar levels and heart evaluation to determine your current state of health. Such intervention is aimed at restoring the normal physiological balance of the body.
  • Strive to identify the cause of your problem by visiting a naturopathic doctor.  Don’t just treat symptoms, which often allows the real disease to progress past the point of recovery.
  • As appropriate, use natural therapies as a first resort to stimulate the body to heal.  Customize your treatment plan to meet your biochemical needs and re-evaluate that plan to changing circumstances, stresses, and experiences.
  • Keep in mind that prevention is not just taking a test. For example, taking a PSA test to rule out prostate cancer, or a having a mammogram to check for breast cancer are important procedures, but it’s important to determine your individual risk factors for cancer and then make the necessary changes early in your life to enable healing, wellness and longevity.
  • Educate yourself and gain the appropriate awareness to make smart health choices now to increase longevity in the future.

A statistic from the late 90s showed that by delaying nursing home admission by just one month, it would save the U.S. health-care system $3 billion a year. Naturopathic doctors help people get well, and have effective strategies in preventing, delaying, and treating age-related diseases. This can have a positive impact on our aging population and in reducing the associated health-care.


This article originally appeared, in a longer version, on CBC.  Dr. Swetlikoff is a licensed ND in Castlegar and Vancouver.