Canadian seniors now outnumber children, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still holding down jobs and contributing to society, a seniors’ advocate says.

About 600,000 seniors over 65 are still in the workforce today, according to Susan Eng, executive vice-president of CARP Canada. That’s more than one in ten of Canada’s 5.8 million seniors, according to new numbers released by Statistics Canada on Tuesday.

“We have to stop thinking that once someone is 65 then they’re non-productive,” Eng told CTV News Channel.

But not all working seniors are happily employed. About half say they enjoy their jobs and simply don’t want to retire, but the other half say they don’t have the means to quit, Eng said.

“They haven’t saved enough, they have to pay for drugs,” Eng said.

The group struggling the most with this scenario, Eng says, are elderly widowed women who stayed home to raise children and did not enter the workforce.

“They are now finding themselves in double digit rates of poverty,” she said.

The population of Canadians older than 65 is now larger than children younger than 14, StatsCan said Tuesday. It’s a tiny margin – just 0.1 per cent – but the imbalance is a glimpse into the future of Canadian demographics, Eng says.

“In 20 years, Stats Canada says, the number of seniors will be double the number of people under the age of 15,” she said.

The new numbers also shed light on the promises made by party leaders on the campaign trail in hopes of wooing the senior vote, she added.

“It’s no surprise that all of the four major parties have an entire list of things that they’re directing towards seniors,” Eng said.

In an interview with the Canadian Press, demographer David Foot said the growing senior population will eventually have a substantial impact on the health care system. But for the time being, they continue to contribute to the economy.

"They're still fairly young seniors. They're in their late 60s," Foot said of those Canadians born between 1946 and 1965. "Many of them are still working and paying taxes."

He estimates that the trend will continue for at least a decade.

The development should be “interpreted with caution,” Statistics Canada warns. The new numbers are based on preliminary data, and a revised outlook is expected in the coming years.

With files from the Canadian Press