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Aging in the Okanagan: Seniors population on the rise

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Aging in the Okanagan: Seniors population on the rise – May 3, 2017

A group of seniors are out enjoying the sunshine at the Penticton Bocci Club today, many of them retired in the Okanagan Valley after leaving the workforce.

“My son told me I’d love it, he said, ‘just go there mom – it’s your kind of town,’” said 74-year-old Moire Jones.

The latest batch of census data shows they are not alone; the greying of the population in the Okanagan is accelerating.

In Penticton there are almost three times as many seniors as children.

Twenty-nine per cent of the population in Penticton are over 65, up from 26 per cent five years ago, compared to 11 per cent of the population being children.

In Vernon, 25.5 per cent of the population are seniors, up from 23 per cent in 2011, compared to 14 per cent of the population under the age of 14.

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Kelowna is second only to Victoria for the lowest number of children.

Twenty-one per cent of the population are seniors, up from 19 per cent five years ago, and only 13 per cent of the population in Kelowna are children.

“It is probably because of the climate [that] we see a lot of the aging population is happening there and some of the cities there have really high proportions of seniors,” said Jonathan Chagnon, Demographer with Statistics Canada.

So what does this all mean for the Okanagan?

Housing and transportation needs are changing, as is consumption, which is shifting towards goods and services for seniors.

“It is probably very good for the wine makers in comparison with places where there is children!” said Chagnon.

There is also increasing demand for healthcare services.

The Mayor of Penticton, Andrew Jakubeit, pointed to the expansion of Penticton Regional Hospital which is currently under construction.

“We are the regional centre of 80,000 plus people… to offer more amenities and day surgeries and more training for health professionals… that will also speak to this being an attractive and desirable area for seniors to come live,” Jakubeit said.

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Susan Brown, administrator for Community Health with the Interior Health Authority, said there is a push towards caring for seniors in their own homes.

“We’ve known this has been coming, the baby boomers have been around for a long time,” she said. “People tell us that that is where they want to stay as long as they possibly can.”

Seniors in British Columbia are living longer than anywhere else in Canada.

“We have many people who are well into their nineties before they need any support,” said Myrna Tischer with the organization Better at Home, which offers non-medical support to the elderly.

It is a historic time as Canada bears witness to seniors outnumbering children for the first time ever.