Responding to the families of tomorrow

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 The latest census information on the makeup of today's families provides useful information for all those charged with responding to the cross-section of the needs of those families. Governments, retailers and housing developers should study it closely.

According to Statistics Canada's latest release of information from the 2011 census, which includes for the first time information on stepfamilies and foster families, today's families and households are more diverse than ever. Across the country, the number of married couples continues to drop, while single parents, common-law couples, same-sex couples and people living alone are on the rise. More adult kids either staying at home longer or returning home after having previously moved out also have changed the makeup of today's families and households. As well, older parents moving in with adult children and their kids means there are more multigenerational families.

The new profile should flag the attention of governments as they shape policy for future health, social and housing programs. Businesses looking to respond to the needs of the changing family should also take note that there are many shapes and sizes of families and that these must be reflected in everything from retail services to housing options.


 An ounce of prevention


Government has been under attack these days for everything from its handling of a proposed Trans-Canada Highway realignment to its decision to bring in harmonized sales taxation, but it deserves a big thumbs up for expanding its free flu immunization policy to include Islanders over age 65.

The province provides vaccination free of charge for children ages six months to 23 months, as well as for pregnant women and others in their households. But Health Minister Doug Currie recently announced the expansion of the free immunization program to include the over-65 age group - a measure he hopes will reduce the risk of flu in this age group and the need for hospitalization.

The initiative makes sense. Investing in prevention not only benefits those who, with immunization, are less likely to get the flu, but it takes pressure off a health-care system that has to treat those who do.


Showing the Olympic spirit


When a 10-year-old Newfoundland and Labrador boy sent a minor sports medal to one of Canada's relay teams after the team was disqualified at the London Olympics this past summer, it was an inspiring gesture of generosity. The generosity was appropriately reciprocated by the team recently when two the members, including P.E.I.'s own Jared Connaughton, made a surprise visit to young Elijah Porter of Paradise, NL to express their appreciation.

When the Canadian men's 4x100-metre relay team placed third in the competition, winning the bronze medal, only to lose it shortly after because of a lane infraction, it was heartbreaking. The loss moved young Elijah to send the team a minor sports medal he himself had won, with a note of support.

Connaughton's response to this was impressive: "The true Olympic spirit kind of gets shadowed with advertising and money, but for a moment, we touched one of our countrymen, a 10-year-old, and that means a tremendous amount to us."

The Olympics always produces unusual stories of the human spirit, and this, without question, was one of them.


Organizations: Statistics Canada, Trans-Canada Highway

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

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