KIMBERLEY — The Columbia Basin has more baby boomers and people over 70, and fewer people under 50 than the Canadian average, according to a presenter who participated in the plenary keynote panel on demographics at the Columbia Basin Trust symposium over the weekend.
Ryan Gibson is the Libro Professor in Regional Economic Development in the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development at the University of Guelph and opened the panel on demographics at SHIFT! Thriving in Change with an overview of the Basin’s demographics.
“You have more seniors in the Basin than most other communities in Canada. All sorts of opportunities on that front. Also all sorts of challenges,” said Gibson.
“You have less young people under 18 that are in schools than most Canadian communities. You have less young adults that are starting into workforce development positions and you also have a lower number of people in that 25 to 45 category, where you would see child-rearing ages,” he added.
The second speaker, David Colleto, CEO of Abacus Data, shared data his company has collected on Canadians who fall in the age categories dubbed Gen X and Millennials.
Colleto said that come 2019, Gen Xers and Millennials will make up 65 per cent of the Canadian electorate, where they only made up 31 per cent of the electorate in 2000.
He also looked at the challenges faced by the two generations: rising student debt and rising house prices.
“The big story of my generation is not just the technological change and … the size of our generation, but it’s something I call a delayed entry into adulthood,” said Colleto, who is a Millennial.
Millenials and Gen Xers are generally waiting longer to buy their first home or have children.
On the other hand, seniors — who are projected to make 24 per cent of the population by 2031 — are working longer.
Isobel Mackenzie, Seniors Advocate for the Province of British Columbia, highlighted the fact that there has been a 75 per cent increase in the number of people working beyond age 65 since 2007.
But seniors still face low incomes, even if they own their own home.
“A quarter of senior homeowners have household incomes of under $30,000 a year. So you want to think about, where is the money going to come from for the new roof, for the deck when it falls off the back of the house?” said Mackenzie.
She also pointed to the challenges seniors face regarding appropriate housing (for those who don’t own or need care) and transportation since only 34 per cent of people over 85 in B.C. still have driver’s licenses.
But Mackenzie was also optimistic about how developments in technology might help seniors with transpoqrtation.
“Self-driving cars will revolutionize this,” she said.