Senior population in Calgary set to triple in 30 years

Calgary’s reputation as a rapidly changing city isn’t confined to its architecture.

By the early 2030s, the City projects – for the first time ever – Calgary will be home to more seniors than youth.

“Between 2012 and 2042, the population over 65 is expected to triple from roughly 100,000 people in 2012 to over 300,000 in 2042,” said Katie Black, acting director for Community and Neighbourhood Services with the City.

The influx raises the question of what housing options will seniors have over the next 20 to 30 years mean for the city? A recent report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) found the average vacancy rate for seniors’ residences was 4.1 per cent this year compared to 6.9 per cent in 2013. The average monthly rent for a standard retirement space in Calgary increased to $3,460 from $3,314 in 2013.

In an study conducted by the City, 85 per cent of Canadians aged 55 and over would prefer to remain in their current residence as they age. The report noted, with the number of older adults looking for housing in Calgary in the years to come, a strain will result on housing availability,
as well as healthcare and other support services and resources.

“From a planning perspective, our huge thing is to focus on diversity so there’s a diversity of housing options and that will allow for options for seniors to move into,” said Carlie Ferguson, executive assistant, director’s office, City Wide Policy and Integration. “If we continue to build all single-family, two-storey homes, those might not be the best in terms of ageing in place which is sort of one of the goals and one of the highlights is to allow someone to completely live their life cycle in the same community.”

A sense of variety of seniors housing was a sentiment echoed by Black.

“There’s lots of different ways that seniors want to, or need to, live in terms of their housing,” she said. “So, what seniors’ housing looks like, I think, is probably going to broaden along with the number of seniors who are needing that housing.”

Effective examples of seniors housing include Lions Village in the northwest — a 90-unit affordable housing complex created to help meet the needs of low income seniors in Calgary as well as doubling as a social and activity hub. In communities surrounding the city, ageing in
place is set to become a reality.

In Bragg Creek, a 0.8 hectare land donation will result in new seniors housing for that community and Canmore recently announced Origin, the Bow Valley’s first plus-65 residence, which will include an aqua therapy salt water pool and yoga studio among other things.

“Not only do the residents have immediate access to Origin’s robust active lifestyle programming, they are also in the heart of the Spring Creek community within walking distance of shops, cafes, galleries, trails and open spaces, all surrounded by the majesty of the Rocky Mountains,” said Frank Kernick, developer of the Spring Creek community Origin will be built in.

Another option for local seniors suggested by Ferguson is renting.

“Rental might be an option for seniors to allow them to stay in their community so they can downsize,” she said. “But if we don’t have a lot of rental options then that limits that choice so from a planning perspective, what we want to do is encourage a high diversity of housing types as well as encourage home ownership and rental options as well.”

From a national perspective, a Seniors Housing Report released by the CMHC found the vacancy rate in Canada reached 9.7 per cent in 2014 compared to 10.3 per cent in 2013. The average rent for bachelor units and private rooms with at least one meal included was $2,043 a month – the lowest rents for seniors can be found in Quebec at $1,497.