If Saanich, Victoria and Oak Bay were siblings, they would likely be aging sisters, who find themselves living very different lives.
That is the upshot of new federal census data tracking age, sex and dwelling types.
According to this data, Saanich’s 2016 population of 114,148 has an average age of 43.5 years, just above the Capital Regional District’s average age of 43.3 years.
The average age of Victoria’s 2016 population of 85,792 is 44.5 years, while the average age of Oak Bay’s 2016 population of 18,094 is 49.2 years.
All three communities are older than the national average of 41 years and therefore outpacing larger trends that show Canadian society is aging.
From 2011 to 2016, Canada registered the largest increase in the share of seniors since Confederation, according to Statistics Canada. This development reflects the fact that the first baby boomers started to turn 65 in 2011.
In fact, 2016 marked the first time (and likely not last for some time) that the census recorded more seniors (5.9 million) than children 14 years of age and younger (5.8 million). Seniors now represent 16.9 per cent of the Canadian population compared to 16.6 per cent who are children, and Vancouver Island is among the geographic centres of Canada’s emerging gerontocracy.
In some Vancouver Island municipalities, including Sidney, over two in five people were 65 years of age and older in 2016, according to Statistics Canada. People over the age of 65 made up 32 per cent of the population in Oak Bay, 21 per cent in Victoria and 20 per cent in Saanich.
All three communities also reflect a larger national trend that shows Canada’s population is becoming more female, a reflection of women generally living longer than men.
Women outnumber men in Saanich, Victoria and Oak Bay. The margin of difference favouring women is 3,480 in Saanich, 4,640 in Victoria and 1,495 in Oak Bay.
Looking at occupied dwelling types, Saanich’s most common dwelling type is the single-detached house.
Of the 46,650 private dwellings in Saanich, almost half — 22,145 — fall into that category. Also notable is the category of “other attached dwelling.” It captures the sub-categories of semi-detached house, row house, apartment or flat in a duplex, apartment in a building that has fewer than five storeys and other single-attached house.
A total of 23,950 dwellings — so more than half of all dwellings — fall across these various sub-categories, suggesting many Saanich residents live in non-traditional types of housing, such as basement suites.
This catch-all category of “other attached dwelling” accounts for more than two out of three dwellings in Victoria, suggesting that the living arrangements in Victoria are even more unusual, if not more precarious than in Saanich.
The category of “Other attached dwelling” accounts for about 32 per cent of dwellings in Oak Bay, where 63 cent of all dwellings fall into the category of single-detached house. This mixture of dwelling types appears to be in line with other data that shows Oak Bay as the most prosperous of the three would-be siblings.
Looking at household sizes, the average Saanich household has a size of 2.4 people, just above 2.3 for Oak Bay. The average household size in Victoria is 1.8 people. In fact, one-person households make up 48 per cent of all households in Victoria, compared to 30 per cent in Oak Bay and 27 per cent in Saanich.
These figures broadly confirm the common perception of Saanich as a suburban, family oriented community, certainly compared to the older, more established Oak Bay and edgier (but perhaps lonelier) Victoria.
This emerging picture will become clearer in late summer, early fall when Statistics Canada will release two additional data sets. The first tracks families, household and marital status, and language (Aug.t 2), the second income (Sept. 13).
Comparing Canada to other members of the G7 industrialized states, Canada had a lower proportion of seniors in 2016 than any other G7 country except the United States, despite the recent acceleration in aging.
Thanks to higher fertility over the past 30 years, the proportion of seniors in 2016 was lower in the United States than in Canada. The average fertility in the United States was 2.0 children per woman, compared with 1.6 in Canada, according to Statistics Canada.
The Canadian population will continue to age rapidly until 2031 and the proportion of seniors could eventually equal the level now seen in Japan.