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Metro Vancouver's senior ranks grow, but region still young for B.C.

Darker green indicates neighbourhoods with more children, lighter colours indicate fewer. - Statistics Canada
Darker green indicates neighbourhoods with more children, lighter colours indicate fewer.
— image credit: Statistics Canada

Seniors aged 65 and older now make up 13.5 per cent of Metro Vancouver's population, according to new statistics from the 2011 census.

That's up from 12.2 per cent five years earlier and reflects the steady greying of the population as Baby Boomers begin to enter their golden years.

The proportion of Metro seniors is projected to climb further to 17 per cent by 2021 and 21 per cent by 2031, driving major changes in demand for health care, housing and transit.

In contrast, the proportion of children and teenagers in Metro Vancouver slipped from 24 per cent to 21.6 per cent from 2006 to 2011, according to the new data.

That was despite what Urban Futures demographer Ryan Berlin called a mini baby boom around 2007 to 2009, when the economy was still going strong.

Surrey, Langley Township, Maple Ridge and Port Moody are the youngest cities in the region, with at least a quarter of their population aged 19 or under.

"A big driver is the availability of land and the type of housing being built," Berlin said of the more suburban cities.

"It's conducive to younger couples and younger singles who are then having kids."

Seniors are most prevalent in White Rock (29.4 per cent), West Vancouver (25.5 per cent), South Delta and pockets of Vancouver such as Shaughnessey and Dunbar.

Another factor is a trend of some young people to move out of Vancouver to the suburbs for school, work or more affordable housing, he added.

Berlin said the overall trend toward an older population means cities must consider more programs for seniors, longer lights at crosswalks and the need for better public transit, including custom transit like HandyDart for those with mobility challenges.

"This kind of stuff will become increasingly relevant," he said.

B.C. is also home to seven of Canada's 10 oldest municipalities in terms of seniors population. They include Summerland, Parksville and Qualicum Beach, where nearly half the residents are seniors.

The median age for Metro Vancouver was 40.2 in 2011, up from 37.4 in 2006.

It would have gone up more, Berlin said, had it not been for the flow of younger people to the urban area – drawn for education, work or lifestyle – as well as immigrants.

Both those groups have helped keep the number of working age people relatively stable in the region.

B.C.'s median age was 41.9 years and seniors made up 15.7 per cent of the province's population. Seniors make up more than 18 per cent of residents in Kelowna and Victoria.

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