Monday, July 14, 2014

Applying Census Definitions to Seniors


A researcher is inquiring about Census definitions and how they apply to seniors. In particular, s/he is asking:

"1) I need to know whether or not living alone includes individuals living in institutions or seniors housing.

2) Do they live in isolated units?

3) Does the term private dwelling include people living in institutions?”

4) When I look at the 2011 Census Profile data, for example Winnipeg, I see “Detailed mother tongue – Total population excluding institutional residents”. There is a “note” to this that gives additional information regarding citizenship. There is also an “Institutional resident” entry in the Census Dictionary at: <> which gives more clarification, for example that institutional includes nursing homes. However, the entry in the Census dictionary has a note at the bottom which reads: “In 2011 and 2006, institutional residents exclude people living in seniors' residences.” How does this work?

5) It would seem that those living in “seniors residences” are included in the Census, but those seniors in a “nursing home” are not included." Is that correct?

In the 2011 Census dictionary, page 55 of 166, it does give a bit more detail under “collective dwellings”, clarifying between “nursing homes” and “residences for seniors”. Is there additional information anywhere, or perhaps someone the researcher can contact with the Census, to help distinguish the differences between these two categories? It would seem to me that the key element is the level of independence.

The researcher is also asking about “living alone”. In general, to me this means one person, by themselves. However, the researcher is questioning whether, in regards to the Census, living alone could include a spouse or partner. The Census dictionary does not seem to have a separate entry for “living alone” but the term does occur on four occasions.
The last, on page 52 of 166, states “one person living alone.” 

6) Is there ever a situation where there could be a couple or more than one person “living alone”? “

Direct Responses to the Questions Followed by a General Explanation from the Author Division

Direct Responses

1) All standard Census data tables publishing statistics on “living alone” (a category of ‘Household living arrangement’) is based on persons in private households. Therefore, it does not include individuals living in collective dwellings (institutional and non-institutional). However, the publication referenced below does have some information on living arrangements of people in seniors’ residence collectives.

2) For living arrangements of people in seniors’ residence collective dwellings, the living arrangement is based on the people in the same unit and not based on all persons in the seniors’ residence collective dwelling.

3) No, the term “private dwelling” does not include people living in institutions.

4) In the 2011 and 2006 Census, residences for senior citizens were considered non-institutional collective dwellings. This was a change from earlier censuses where residences for senior citizens were considered institutional collective dwellings.

5) Usual residents in seniors’ residences, as well as nursing homes, are included in the Census. What is different is the specific questions that are collected. One difference is that, for people in seniors’ residences, the living arrangements (based on the people in the unit) were collected; while it was not collected for people in nursing homes. However, this information is not included in standard tabulations of the variable “Household Living Arrangements”. A data table is available in the publication referenced.

6) No, based on the definitions explained above.

General Explanation

The Census concept of “living alone” can be found under the definition for “Household living arrangements”:

Household living arrangements
Part A - Short definition: Refers to the classification of persons as members of a family household or of a non-family household, and whether they are family persons or persons not in a census family.
Part B - Detailed definition: Refers to the classification of persons as members of a family household or of a non-family household, that is, whether or not they are living in a household that contains at least one census family, and whether they are members of a census family or not in a census family. Persons not in census families are further classified as living with relatives, living with non-relatives (only) or living alone.
Census years: 2011, 2006, 2001, 1996, 1991, 1986, 1981
Reported for: Population in private households
The concept of “living alone” applies only for populations in private households;
thus it does not apply to people in collective dwellings (whether institutional collectives such as nursing homes, or non-institutional collectives such as residences for senior citizens).
This is the concept used in all standard Census data tables.

However, in the 2011 Census, collective living arrangements of people in seniors’ residences was identified as an important data need. These results are published in the article: “Living Arrangements of Seniors” <>.

The article has a specific section on people in seniors’ residences. In this section, the living arrangement is based on the people living in the same unit and not based on all persons in the seniors’ residence collective dwelling. However, please note that all other 2011 standard Census data tables for the variable ‘Household living arrangement’ are for persons in private households; thus, data for people in seniors’ residences are not included in these tabulations.