Grow old along with me

Statistics show that Canadian retirees are congregating to certain communities and for good reason.



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Robert Browning was not referring to neighbourhoods or cities when he penned the line, “Grow old along with me!” in his well-known poem, Rabbi Ben Ezra, however, it seems that Canadians are growing old together, based on community census data. At the federal level, policy changes such as pension entitlements and transfer payment calculations are intended to better position the country for population aging. Communities will each have their challenges in meeting the changing needs of their own local populations. To better understand this impact at local levels, census data for western, central and eastern province are being analyzed. The results might mean that retirees reconsider where they live in order to build a solid social network as well as be able to access important goods and services.

Although the median age for Canada is 40, local communities are not aging at the same rate. This can have a big impact on the ability to integrate new comers into a community, offer appropriate services and even to find employees to staff a business. In some instances the differences between Canadian communities are downright startling. Although, without fertility data the picture is incomplete, this is a good start toward better understanding our own population aging characteristics.

West Coast retirement trends

Victoria is traditionally known as Canada’s retirement destination. According to Chart 1, the City of Victoria’s median age is approximately 42, making it slightly older than Canada’s median age of 40. The Metro Victoria Area includes older cities such as Oak Bay (median age of 52.4), resulting in an older population with a median age of 44.2.  Surpassing even Oak Bay’s older median age are the smaller communities of Qualicum Beach, at 63.2 years and Parksville at 58.2 years. Considering that the average age of retirement in Canada is 62, roughly half the population of Qualicum Beach and Parksville is retired.

Another perspective on population aging is the rate at which the proportion of those age 65 and older increases. From census 2006 to 2011, Parksville experienced a 20.3% increase in those age 65 plus while Qualicum Beach’s seniors population increased by 17.5%. Even Metro Vancouver is aging rapidly, adding 15.3% of seniors between 2006 and 2011. Whereas the City of Victoria saw little change in the level of seniors (0.5%) during this same time period.  Victoria has had older residents for decades and could provide other communities with strategies for successfully supporting aging groups.

Chart 1 – Select British Columbia locations-population change 2006-2011 (Statistics Canada)

BC Locations Median Age % Age 65+
Comox 49.1 22.1
Kelowna City 43.0 7.5
Kelowna (Metro Area) 44.2 11.7
Oak Bay 52.4 11.0
Parksville 58.2 20.3
Qualicum Beach 63.9 17.5
Saanich 44.9 4.7
Vancouver City 39.7 7.8
Vancouver (Metro Area) 40.2 15.3
Victoria City 41.9 0.5
Victoria (Metro Area) 44.2 7.8

Central Canada’s aging trends

Chart 2 shows Elliot Lake with a median age of 57.1 as the oldest population found in the sampling of communities in Ontario. Census data identifies the rapid aging taking place in Mississauga (at 24.0%) and Collingwood (at 23.5%). Affordable condominium and retirement communities are attracting retirees, often from more expensive locations such as Toronto. These communities will need to prepare to meet the special needs of their older populations over the next couple of decades.

Chart 2 – Select Ontario locations-population change 2006-2011 (Statistics Canada)

Ontario Locations Median Age % Age 65+
Burlington 41.8 17.2
Coborg 49.6 10.2
Collingwood 47.0 23.5
Elliot Lake 57.1 8.9
Hamilton 40.9 8.2
Huntsville 45.7 13.6
Mississauga 38.5 24.0
Niagara-on-the-Lake 51.0 13.2
Orillia 45.2 10.2
Port Hope 47.2 11.6
Toronto 40.1 6.8
Windsor 40.1 7.0

East Coast aging trends

Chart 3 provides a sampling of communities in Nova Scotia, another provincial retirement destination. Census data indicates that the east coast is aging well above the level for Canada except for the capital city, Halifax. The rates of change vary widely from 1.3% (Truro) to 13.6% in Halifax although no extreme outliers were found in any of the data.

Chart 3 – Select Nova Scotia locations-population change 2006-2011 (Statistics Canada)

Nova Scotia Locations Median Age % Age 65+
Cape Breton 47.5 4.4
Lunenburg 48.7 12.7
New Glasgow 46.1 9.5
Truro 45.6 1.3

Lee Anne Davies has worked as a consultant for insurance, wealth management, banking and financial education companies. She has a PhD in Aging, Health and Well-being and a Masters of Arts (MA) in Gerontology and Health Studies from the University of Waterloo and an MBA from Athabasca University’s Information Technology Management program. She’s also successfully completed the Canadian Securities Course and the Professional Financial Planning Course. To read more from Davies, visit her blog Agenomics.

One comment on “Grow old along with me

  1. did you just forget the prairies on purpose?


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