The figure below displays the changes in Canadian age demographics over the last forty years, showing that the median age has increased from 26.2 in 1971 to 40 in 2012. The graph shows overall increases in populations of people age 40 and above, where the population of younger adults (20 to 39) has levelled and numbers of youth and infants (19 and less) have decreased. We can clearly see our population is aging, but what does this mean for future Canadian communities?
The Canada Centre for Policy Alternatives released a report earlier this year noting that 14% of seniors in BC live in poverty, with seniors that are unattached or ‘single’ being especially at risk1. This issue has the potential to get much worse as this demographic grows. And yet, there are many possible scenarios, with innovation and imagination. The CRC blog last week explored some options focusing specifically on cooperative housing. Cooperative housing and co-housing can contribute to economies of scale by sharing of resources, but more importantly, increases inter-personal connection and building of social capital, contributing to higher quality of life. Similarly, we should expand these ideas beyond house and home by looking at developing shared spaces where seniors can socialize and recreate. In our Solutions Agenda research on multi-functional spaces, we explored one example of economies of scale involving a multi-purpose building that housed a seniors centre with an elementary school, library, recreation centre and club housing, which encouraged inter-generational social capital building. After all, isn’t life simply about place and relationships, and increasing our connections as we age seems vitally important?
1Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reported that 40% of unattached or ‘single’ seniors were living in poverty, and the 2006 census showed that, of approximately 12,000 seniors living in BC that spent over half their income on housing, 94% of this group consisting of single women.