Pop­u­la­tion set to get much older, re­port pre­dicts

Growth in se­niors vastly out­pac­ing work­ing age

Vancouver Sun - - FRONT PAGE - BRIAN MORTON AND MATTHEW ROBIN­SON

If you’re a se­nior look­ing for a great place to play end­less rounds of golf or games of bridge through your golden years, then the Okana­gan Val­ley’s the place to be.

But if you’re a young par­ent and want a place where your kids will have plenty of friends and out­door pur­suits, you may choose to head up the Sea to Sky High­way to Squamish.

Those are two of the con­clu­sions in a Busi­ness Coun­cil of B.C. re­port that found, among other things, B.C.’s pop­u­la­tion growth has not only slowed, av­er­ag­ing 0.9 per cent an­nu­ally, but the num­ber of peo­ple aged 65 and over is grow­ing at four times the rate of the num­ber of work­ing-aged peo­ple (25 to 64).

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, B.C.’s pop­u­la­tion growth av­er­aged 2.6 per cent in the 1980s and early 1990s but has dropped to 0.9 per cent in re­cent years. While pop­u­la­tion growth is ex­pected to pick up slightly in the com­ing years, it will then steadily ease back to around one per cent by 2025 and 0.8 per cent by 2035.

By 2027, the re­port concludes, the nat­u­ral growth in B.C.’s pop­u­la­tion falls to nil, with im­mi­gra­tion and migration from other prov­inces be­com­ing the main sources of growth.

“The most im­me­di­ate im­pli­ca­tion is just the pres­sure on health care and other so­cial ser­vices that go along with an aging pop­u­la­tion,” Ken Pea­cock, a re­port co-au­thor and the busi­ness coun­cil’s chief econ­o­mist, said in an in­ter­view.

The most im­me­di­ate im­pli­ca­tion is just the pres­sure on health care and other so­cial ser­vices that go along with an aging pop­u­la­tion … and there will be more se­niors work­ing later.

KEN PEA­COCK BUSI­NESS COUN­CIL OF B.C.’S CHIEF ECON­O­MIST

“And there will be more se­niors work­ing later. The re­tire­ment age has climbed up and I think it will keep climb­ing,” Pea­cock added. “Work­places are more flex­i­ble in terms of hours that older peo­ple would like to work and I fully ex­pect that trend to con­tinue.”

But the re­port also looked at pop­u­la­tion pat­terns in 23 re­gions through­out the prov­ince, with re­sults show­ing sharp dif­fer­ences in both the cur­rent sta­tus and fu­ture growth.

It found that the Okana­gan-Sim­ilka­meen, which in­cludes Pen­tic­ton, Osoy­oos, Sum­mer­land and Oliver, will have more than 82 peo­ple aged 65 and up for ev­ery 100 work­ing-aged per­sons (aged 15-64) by 2030.

It’s a shock­ing fig­ure, but the area al­ready has the high­est ra­tio of el­derly peo­ple in the prov­ince, with 60 peo­ple over 65 for ev­ery 100 work­ing-aged peo­ple.

Osoy­oos Mayor Sue McKortoff said snow­birds and other se­niors flock to the town, and that’s not a bad thing.

“We’re a great mu­nic­i­pal­ity. Canada’s warm­est wel­come, we say,” McKortoff said.

“We’re will­ing to work with the fact that this is a se­niors’ des­ti­na­tion and see how we can make that work,” she said, adding that vol­un­teerism and part-time work, as well as the trend for peo­ple to work later in life, could help keep the town run­ning.

The Sun­shine Coast is pre­dicted to be the sec­ond-old­est re­gion in the prov­ince, with its ra­tio of se­niors ris­ing from to­day’s 52 for ev­ery 100 work­ing-aged peo­ple to al­most 81 in 2030.

It’s a trend of­fi­cials in that re­gion are try­ing to bet­ter un­der­stand and pre­pare for.

Emanuel Machado, the chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer of Gib­sons, said the im­pli­ca­tions for the over­all eco­nomic health of the area are not fully un­der­stood.

“Peo­ple might not nec­es­sar­ily be work­ing, but it does not mean that they don’t have money to spend, or in­come,” he said.

It’s a topic po­lit­i­cal lead­ers in the re­gion are start­ing to take on to­gether, try­ing to un­der­stand the is­sue and fig­ure out how the re­gion can con­tinue to at­tract peo­ple who are still in the work­force.

Wayne Rowe, the mayor of Gib­sons, said the town is pre­par­ing for an older pop­u­la­tion by fo­cus­ing on ac­ces­si­bil­ity, keep­ing i ts foot­print small and re­mov­ing bar­ri­ers to smaller-scale hous­ing like laneway homes. At the same time, Rowe thinks the area will con­tinue to at­tract peo­ple who work from home.

“There’s peo­ple that are based here who are work­ing world­wide,” he said. “They can do that in the morn­ing and then they can go out and get on their kayak in the af­ter­noon. And I think we’re well placed to at­tract those peo­ple.”

Not far from the Sun­shine Coast is Squamish-Lil­looet — eas­ily the youngest re­gion in the prov­ince — with just over 15 peo­ple 65 and up for ev­ery 100 work­ing-aged peo­ple, or half the pro­vin­cial av­er­age.

Although the growth of Squamish-Lil­looet’s 65-an­dover pop­u­la­tion is pre­dicted to rise sharply over the next 15 years, it would still be only about 31 peo­ple for ev­ery 100 work­ing-aged per­sons by 2030, just over one-third of the Okana­gan-Sim­ilka­meen’s fig­ure and a tick higher than the Peace River’s 29, which would be the low­est.

Pea­cock said the Squamish-Lil­looet re­gion is popular with young fam­i­lies for many rea­sons. “There’s life­style, af­ford­abil­ity and

it’s an in­ter­est­ing re­gion,” he said. “Young fam­i­lies are mov­ing there for af­ford­abil­ity rea­sons, as the North Shore and Van­cou­ver proper be­comes very price-pro­hib­i­tive in terms of get­ting into the hous­ing mar­ket. But you’ve also got life­style and recre­ation. It’s also about the same com­mut­ing time (to Van­cou­ver) as White Rock.”

The prov­ince as a whole has 31 peo­ple 65 and up for ev­ery 100 work­ing-aged peo­ple (which will rise to 45 in 2030). Metro Van­cou­ver has about 25 now, ris­ing to 39 in 2030, and the eastern Fraser Val­ley has about 32 now, ris­ing to 42 by 2030.

The re­port also found B.C.’s pop­u­la­tion is be­com­ing more ur­ban­ized, with 70 per cent living in the four largest metropoli­tan ar­eas — and ris­ing.

The re­port con­cluded that an older pop­u­la­tion will put ad­di­tional pres­sure on public ex­pen­di­tures while gov­ern­ments’ ca­pac­ity to raise rev­enue is di­min­ished with a smaller frac­tion of the cit­i­zenry work­ing.

As such, gov­ern­ments will need to look to poli­cies and in­cen­tives that can keep peo­ple work­ing longer and boost labour force par­tic­i­pa­tion among groups that tra­di­tion­ally have been less likely to be em­ployed. New in­cen­tives to lo­cate in smaller com­mu­ni­ties may also need to be con­sid­ered.

Like McKortoff in Osoy­oos, Machado on the Sun­shine Coast saw vol­un­teerism as a way through some of the pos­si­ble hard­ship.

“The coast has a long his­tory of vol­un­teers get­ting it done,” he said, adding that many se­niors in the area “are not quite ready to go golf­ing all day. They still con­trib­ute sub­stan­tially.”

Young fam­i­lies are mov­ing (to Squamish-Lil­looet)for af­ford­abil­ity rea­sons, as the North Shore and Van­cou­ver proper be­comes very price-pro­hib­i­tive in terms of get­ting into the hous­ing mar­ket. KEN PEA­COCK RE­PORT CO-AU­THOR

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