Parksville is demographically old and getting older, which has positive and negative impacts according to mayor Chris Burger.
The 2011 census age and dwelling counts were releaced Tuesday, placing Parksville at the top of the list as the oldest population of any “census agglomeration” in the country.
In the Parksville census agglomeration — or small metropolitan area including Nanoose Bay, French Creek and Qualicum Beach — over a third (38.6 per cent) of the population is age 65 or older.
That’s well over twice the national average of 14.8 per cent.
“We’re very fortunate to have that retirement base,” Burger said, pointing out it gives the city more stability than industrial cities where the economy fluctuates more.
When the economy in places like Powell River and the Cowichan Valley suffer, their goal is to attract more retirees and tourists, which Parksville is already known for.
“Having said that, it is important to have a mix of demographics,” Burger conceded after touting a list of the positives of a stable older community.
“The problem is a lot of that is out of our control, we’re not drawing as many young families,” he said, pointing out that some younger age groups are actually going up in the city, including 20 to 34 year olds and a seven percent increase in children under four, they are just not rising as fast as the senior population.
That aging senior population is indeed notable, making national news, with the specific municipality of Parksville having the second highest portion of seniors in the country behind only Qualicum Beach’s 47.2 per cent.
The median age in Parksville rose three years to 58.2, ten years older than the provincial average meaning the “working age” population (age 15 to 64) has dropped two per cent to 52.4 per cent.
“Economic development is still very important here,” Burger said, explaining the city is trying to highlight the services that are available for families, like the new Family Place and Oceanside Health Centre education and health care projects.
He said they are beginning a process of discussions with what he called the city’s four big economic development organizations: the chamber of commerce and associations for downtown business, tourism and construction.
“We want their views on how to work together more effectively while still protecting the small community atmosphere and very high quality of life.”
“At the end of the day, the community is growing faster than average, which is a positive reflection on the whole region.”