As Statistics Canada continues to release data from the 2011 census, the reality continues to hit home that our region’s population is aging.
The village of Nakusp showed a small amount of growth between 2006 and 2011, with the population increasing from 1,524 to 1,569. The growth, however, was recorded almost exclusively in age groups from 40 and above.
As baby boomers are now running headlong into retirement with the first of the Generation-Xers not far behind, senior demographics are rapidly expanding at the expense of working-age (15-to-64) groups.
Nakusp, for example, has seen an increase in the population of 70-to-74 year-olds from 60 in 2006 to 105 in 2011, while the population of 35-to-30 year-olds fell from 125 to just 65. The median age of Nakusp’s population rose over ten per cent over the past five years from 45.8 to 50.6 – nearly a decade higher than the provincial median age of 41.9.
The implications of such numbers on the taxpayer base, especially in a small town with economic challenges, are huge. There are now 61.3 dependents (seniors plus children under 15) for every 100 working-age persons in Nakusp, a massive change from 2006 when the ratio was 48.3 for every 100 working-age persons. Again, this growth is due to an increasing senior population; of these dependents, 39.2 are seniors compared to just 24.6 in 2006.
Perhaps the most disturbing numbers in our region came from Burton. Between 2006 and 2011, the population of the village core fell nearly in half from 225 to 115. Even more of an alarm is that 98.3 per cent of the population was 15 and older – in other words, all but approximately five people in the entire village. The median age of a Burtonian is now 60.8 years.
Of all designated places in the Arrow Lakes/North Slocan region, only Edgewood did not experience net aging, staying level at 55.3 years.
While New Denver’s population stayed essentially flat (504 in 2011 versus 512 in 2006), the median age increased from 53.0 to 56.5, making the village the third-oldest municipality in the entire Kootenay-Boundary region behind Midway and Greenwood. Silverton, on the other hand, no longer claims the distinction of being B.C.’s smallest municipality, gaining ten people to pass the Vancouver Island logging town of Zeballos with 195 residents.
Province-wide, the fastest-growing municipality was Langford, the second largest suburb of Victoria, which grew by 30.1 per cent over the five-year period to 29,228. On the other end, the fastest-shrinking town was Zeballos, which lost 33.9 per cent of its population. Whistler had the youngest median age of all municipalities at 32.4, while Qualicum Beach had the oldest at 63.9. As a whole, the province’s population continues to grow, rising from 4,113,487 to 4,400,057.
Urban areas in our region such as Nelson, and even ones as small as Nakusp, continue to grow slightly at the expense of the small rural villages surrounding them as people move into large centres with more services. This trend is likely to grow as the overall population continues to age.