We are getting older … but we are not all old. We are a diverse and changing community in terms of age. Planners and business types need to think about all of us when they look forward.
Wayne Gretzky was a great hockey player because he could anticipate where the puck would be and not merely see where the puck was at the moment. In the same way, planners, both within governments and businesses must not merely look at the present situation but must get a feel for the future age structure of our communities. Unless this is done, we may end up with both empty facilities, typically used by declining segments of the population, and too few facilities and services available for the populations that are growing.
The median age (half of us are younger and half are older than this age) in Cornwall jumped from 36.7 years in 1996 to exactly 43 years in 2006. Within SD&G, the oldest residents live in South Glengarry (44.8 years) and the youngest live in North Stormont (38.9 years).
The number of pre-school and school-aged (0-14 years) children has been on a gradual decline over the last decade. The number in this group fell by 20% between 1996 and 2008. This explains many of the school closings and consolidations. Middle-of-the-road projections prepared by the Ontario Ministry of Finance suggest that the number of children in this group will continue to shrink over the next few years and then basically flatten out over the next decade.
The number of young adults (15-24) has been flat over the last decade and is projected to fall further. This is the group that fills, or not, our high schools and colleges and provides the workforce of the future.
The last decade has seen a sharp drop in the 25-44 age group and dipped by 23% from 1996 to 2008. According to demographers within the Ontario government, this decline is expected to continue for a few more years before increasing very slowly. This is the group which is most likely to have kids and also the most likely to pack up and move when job opportunities are better elsewhere. Weeks 1 and 2 of this 10 week series revealed that many did leave in the last few years.
The shrinking of these two groups (15-24 and 25-44) of potential or actual core workers is becoming a major problem across Canada. In time, this will lead to an intense competition by provinces and communities to attract the declining number of these people to move there. The competition will be especially high for health care workers and for many other occupations that we hear less about. It will be important for SD&G to provide attractive jobs and/or an attractive business environment for these people to come here or to stay here. This also includes individual and family activities to keep them happy.
The number of boomers (roughly those in the 45-64 age group) jumped by over one-third over the 1996 to 2008 period and by 2004 was the largest age group. The number of these boomers will peak during the next few years as they gradually enter the senior group (65+).
The number of seniors advanced by a slower 12% over the last decade but is projected to soar by over 40% by 2021. These are the boomers becoming seniors. By 2021, the number of seniors will outnumber the number of those aged 0-14 by over 10,000 … just a decade ago, the number of those aged 0-14 outnumbered the number of seniors by over 7,000. This represents a dramatic reversal in only two decades. Are planners really incorporating this evolving reality into their future vision? Will new or refurbished recreation centres, like the new arena complex, really reflect the needs of an aging population and not merely the needs of youth?
(In week 4 we look at up-to-date employment and unemployment in Cornwall.)
Roger Sauvé is President of People Patterns Consulting (www.peoplepatternsconsulting.com). He is an economist and demographer and lives in Summerstown.
please visit our sponsors: