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Yesterday was a very exciting day for planners and statisticians who eagerly anticipated the new release of Census Canada data. As the Globe and Mail reporters Tavia Grant and Jeremy Agius noted, the  “greying of Canada’s population is accelerating, as new census numbers show seniors now outnumber children for the first time in the survey’s history.”  While 16.9 per cent of the country’s population is over 65, those 15 years and under number 16.6 per cent.

An aging population will impact all kinds of businesses that will need to cater to “older empty-nester single person households” as well as “government budgets to pensions, health care, the labour market, consumer trends and social services.”

There has been a trend through lobbies such as Generation Squeeze to advocate for better policy, affordability and accessibility for  people in their 20’s to 40’s, with the thought that seniors are taking a lot of the resources. As Jen St. Denis reports in Metro News Vancouver’s high prices mean that while Vancouver attracts young people in their 20’s, who are leaving the city once they reach the 35 to 44-year-old age group.

While the City of Vancouver has recognized the need for housing for families and is focusing on lower and middle-income residents, Simon Fraser University’s Andy Yan notes that both children and seniors over 65 have been left out of the city’s new housing plan, and that both of these populations have specific needs. Metro Vancouver’s population grew 16 per cent overall between 2006 and 2016, but the number of people over 65 within that cohort grew by 35 per cent.  It is clear that there is not yet strong policy representation for this growing cohort which will need specialized housing close to walkable and accessible services as they age out of their residences. Canada still  has the “lowest share of seniors than in any other G7 country except the United States”. 

The statistics also indicate that more seniors are moving to British Columbia when they retire, with seven of the top ten places with the largest amount of older people here. Not surprisingly four of those are on Vancouver Island, known for a salubrious climate. There is going to be a lot more information being interpreted, but the message is clear-we need to rethink the policies to allow everyone to live in Vancouver and age in place in a way that enhances liveliness and accessibility. It is going to be a tall order.

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