B.C. bucks national aging pattern

Globe and Mail Update
Tuesday, July 16 – Online Edition, Posted at 10:49 AM EST

British Columbia stands as the lone exception to Canada's aging pattern in the 2001 census.

There was an east-west split among the provinces in patterns of aging in 2001, with the country getting younger from east to west. That trend was broken on the West Coast, where the population aged because of the immigration of older people.

Between 1991 and 2001, the median age of British Columbia's population increased 3.7 years to 38.4 years from 34.7. This was just short of the nation's highest median age of 38.8 years in both Nova Scotia and Quebec.

Median age is the point where exactly one half of the population is older, and the other half is younger.

In 2001, young people aged 19 and under accounted for 25 per cent of British Columbia's population; individuals aged 20 to 64 made up 61 per cent; and seniors aged 65 and over made up 14 per cent.

The population of almost every age group in British Columbia increased between 1991 and 2001. Only the number of preschool children aged four and under declined (7 per cent to 205,655 from 220,830) along with the number aged 25 to 34 (8 per cent).

British Columbia experienced substantial increases in its oldest working-age category of the population, and large increases among the elderly.

The oldest-working-age population (ages 45 to 64) soared 49 per cent, and is projected to gain another 35 per cent by 2011.

Among seniors, the population aged 70 to 79 increased 27 per cent to 248,130. The number aged 80 and over jumped to 134,175 from 87,065, a 54-per-cent increase, the highest such growth among the provinces. According to projections, this latter group can expect to gain another 43 per cent by 2011.

The 2001 census counted 1,988,635 women and 1,919,100 men in British Columbia. Of these, 410 women and 115 men were aged 100 and over.

In 2001, the census metropolitan area of Victoria no longer had the oldest population among the nation's 27 largest metropolitan areas. Trois-Rivières, Que., moved into that spot with a median age of 41.2 years. Victoria is now second, with a median age of 41.0 years, up 2.3 years from 1996. The median age of Vancouver's population was 37.4 years.

The median age of the population of the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island increased by 2.1 years, from 36.0 years in 1996 to 38.1 years in 2001. There was a sharp five-year difference in the median age of the population between the Lower Mainland, which was 37.8 years, and southern Vancouver Island, which was 42.8 years.

Among municipalities with a population of 5,000 or more, 13 of the 25 oldest were in British Columbia. Heading the list was the town of Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island, with a median age of 58.1 years, well above the provincial average of 38.4 years.

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