Skip to main content

More and more Canadians are celebrating their 90th birthdays, but additional gains in longevity will be hard to come by, according to Canada's Chief Actuary.

Despite rapid improvements in mortality rates, average lifespans are unlikely to ever hit 100, according to new projections issued Tuesday.

Over the past decade, life expectancy for those who reach 65 has climbed by two years, largely as the result of better treatment of heart disease. Men who are 65 today will live to 84 on average, while women will live to 87.

Canadian life expectancies at age 65

Jean-Claude Ménard, Canada's Chief Actuary, said the improvement in life spans is not projected to continue at the same rate into the future. His office's projections assume the pace of gains will continue for the next few years, then gradually slow.

Boys born in 2075 are expected to live 90.1 years and girls 92.5 years, according to the report. That compares to a life expectancy of 86.1 for males born today and 89.1 for females.

Life expectancy projections for Canadian men, based on age, birth year


An average life expectancy of 100 could be possible for women by 2121 and men by 2094 if mortality rates continued improving at current rates. However, that is unlikely because the 20th century saw "exceptionally rapid" increases to life expectancies that are unlikely to be repeated. "The point of this exercise was to demonstrate that while living to 100 on average is possible theoretically, it is not very likely to happen in reality," Mr. Ménard said.

Life expectancy projections for Canadian women, based on age, birth year


Average lifespans may not hit 100, but more individuals are expected to reach that level. Half of Canadians aged 20 today will live to age 90, and 10 per cent are expected to reach 100, the study said.

The report also concludes the possibility of Canadians reaching ages of 110 or beyond in the future are "practically zero," because there is no evidence today that all but the rarest of people are capable of living that long.

Canadian life expectancies at birth

Paul Forestell, retirement leader at pension consulting firm Mercer Canada, said it is difficult for actuaries to predict how fast mortality will improve, especially with uncertainty about future medical advances. "It's true that living to 100 will still be a challenge. … Even if they find a cure for cancer, then people will die from something else."

Mr. Forestell said the revised lifespan information will be useful for many individuals saving on their own for retirement. The new numbers suggest that these individuals may want to set aside more money to offset the risk of outliving their money.

The Office of the Chief Actuary provides actuarial services to help make future cost projections for federal government programs such as the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security plan.

Mr. Ménard said the new data will not require changes to the CPP because the projections are updated routinely and already built into funding models. OAS has already increased retirement ages to 67 from 65, effective in 2023, to account for growing lifespans, he added.

Michael Millns, the retirement practice leader in Toronto at pension consulting firm Towers Watson, said the findings of the new report, coupled with a recent private-sector life expectancy report by the Canadian Institute of Actuaries, could have an impact on smaller pension plans.

Smaller plans do not routinely monitor mortality data and may have to set aside more money to fund longer retirement periods, while bigger public sector plans monitor the data constantly, he said.

"For many pension plans it's a fairly substantial change," Mr. Millns said. "The bigger pension plans have enough data to do the analysis themselves, but the smaller pension plans have to go on these standard studies."