THE North Shore is getting older.
Census figures released Tuesday showed local populations are aging at a much faster rate than in previous generations - a trend reflected across country as many of the baby boom generation enter their golden years.
While the population of the North Shore as a whole grew by 3.2 per cent between 2006 and 2011, that was fuelled mainly by increasing numbers of seniors.
"The older population grew quite rapidly relative to the working age population and the kids," said Ryan Berlin, a demographer with the Vancouver-based Urban Futures.
The number of seniors grew by more than 14 per cent on the North Shore in the past five years, while the number of children under 15 shrank by three per cent.
Even a mini "toddler boom" in the City of North Vancouver pales in comparison to the overall aging of the North Shore's population.
Of the three communities on the North Shore, the grey tsunami is most keenly in evidence in West Vancouver, which ranked as the 12th oldest municipality in B.C. in 2011.
More than 25 per cent of the 42,695 people who called West Vancouver home in the last census are now age 65 or older.
While the population of West Vancouver held steady, growing
1.3 per cent since the 2006 census, that was largely fuelled by an increasing number of seniors. The number of seniors in West Vancouver grew by more than 12 per cent since 2006, while the numbers of working-age people and children both shrank.
Children up to age 14 now make up only 13.8 per cent of the population in West Vancouver while those aged 80 or older accounted for almost nine per cent.
Currently most of West Vancouver's seniors are still relatively "youthful" baby boomers, said Berlin. "Many of these folks are still working and still doing the same things they were doing when they were 55," he said.
In future years, however, that aging population will likely have a greater impact on everything from municipal planning to ensuring there are longer "walk" times at crosswalks.
North Vancouver is also growing older.
Compared to West Vancouver - and to areas like Burnaby and the City of Vancouver - the District of North Vancouver does have a higher than average proportion of children under 15, who make up 17 per cent of the population.
But that proportion has dropped since the last census. Overall, the number of children in the city and district of North Vancouver is down by three percent since 2006.
The one anomaly in those figures is the presence of a minor "toddler" boom in the City of North Vancouver, accounting for an increase of about 100 children under age five between 2006 and 2011. But that isn't expected to have any long-term impacts on school enrolment, said John Lewis, North Vancouver superintendent of schools.
People may start their families while living in city apartments, but once those kids are school age, families often move out to areas where they can afford to live in a more traditional house with a yard, said Berlin. "Not a lot of folks choose to or want to raise kids in a 500-square-foot space 20 stories up in the air."
That's one of the key factors driving people in the 25 to 40 age groups out of North Vancouver.
If they return, said Lewis, it's usually when they're older and more established - and their kids are already out of the public school system.
Explaining that overall population growth doesn't mean a growth in the population of school-age kids has been one of the challenges faced by the school district as it's grappled with falling enrolments and school closures over the past decade, he added.
The City of North Vancouver grew the fastest since the last census, increasing by 6.7 per cent, to a population of 48,196, between 2006 to 2011. The city also had the largest proportion of working-age people on the North Shore - at 72.5 per cent.
Next door, in the District of North Vancouver, the population grew to 84,415 over the past five years - an increase of 2.2 per cent.
In both the city and district, increasing numbers of seniors drove overall population figures. The number of seniors in the District of North Vancouver grew by 17.6 per cent, while the number in the city grew by 10.8 per cent.
The greying of the population, driven by aging baby boomers, isn't a surprise, said Berlin. "Ever since the baby boomers were born, they've shaped our demography."
It was in that environment that health care and pension systems were shaped, he said. The challenges now faced by those systems have been known about for a long time, he said, but "the census always reinforces the immediacy of dealing with them."