Greying Island Economy Could Affect Growth

Posted: Oct 29, 2010


SeniorsThe Nanaimo Daily News is reporting that retirement hot spots of Parksville and Qualicum Beach, which have some of the "greyest" populations in Canada, are examining how best to move their economies forward as the number of retirees heading to the region continues to rise. And, the paper says, it's a process that has already sparked debate.
Last week, Gary Child, president of the Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce, slammed local municipal policies such as Qualicum's population cap, claiming that they would stifle economic growth. He also told the Daily News that there is a general community attitude "opposed to any change or growth."
Several community leaders in the Oceanside region agreed. Both municipalities are reviewing their official community plans.
But Parksville and Qualicum Beach, where the percentage of population over the age of 65 is 34% and 41% respectively, are not the only locales in central Vancouver Island drawing large numbers of retirees. The province forecasts the number of people aged 65 and older make up 32.1% of the population in the Regional District of Nanaimo by 2031, up from 24.6% for 2010.
A growing aging population is expected to have a noticeable impact on the Island economy.
Certain job sectors that cater to older people, such as medical fields, will grow more rapidly while also allowing the opportunity for more unique senior-focused businesses. 
However, older people typically aren't big spenders, said Ken Thornicroft, a professor of law and labour relations with the University of Victoria's faculty of business.
"Whether you're talking about food or whether you're talking about clothing or meals in restaurants, there are different consumption patterns," he said.
The number of single-family housing starts would also drop, said Thornicroft, as seniors bought up condominiums and other higher-density homes.
Jim Stewart, president of the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board, said an aging population will have a positive affect on the local housing market because older people are more likely to have their homes paid off. This provides more stability in the market, he said.

Excerpted from the Nanaimo Daily News

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