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Penticton’s aging population impacting local services

The City of Penticton is growing at a slower rate compared to other large cities in the Thompson-Okanagan region , according to new data, and the demographic is getting older.

The community has experienced population growth according to recent census data, however the growth is mainly in the 65 age range.

“Like the rest of the country and the province, that age 65 demographic is going to be larger. Looking at our population projections we’re not seeing a decline in the younger age populations, we’re going to see that maintain. We do see growth in our working age population as well,” said Penticton Development Services director Blake Laven.

“I think the policies that we put in place to try to encourage family housing, more three bedroom units to attract more families to our community is what we can do at the city level to try to balance out our population profile.”

Having an older population can have an impact on certain services like health care, housing and the school system.

According to  School District 67, student enrolment has decreased 36 per cent since 2001 and is predicted not to change significantly over the next 20 years.

“It is a bit of an anomaly in the province,” said School District 67 board chair James Palanio on Thursday.

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“We have the data that’s showing that this community and the surrounding communities does not have growth in school-aged children.”

Unlike other school districts in the region that are over capacity, the Okanagan-Skaha district is well under and looking to downsize.

School district staff have recommended moving towards an elementary-secondary school model, which would mean closing three elementary schools and doing away with middle schools entirely.

“Certainly, seeing lots of growth in other districts throughout the province. Our projections do not see that kind of growth. We haven’t experienced growth over the last number of years, and we project very minimal growth over the next 10 years, a maximum of 300 students is what our projections show,” said School District 67 superintendent Todd Manuel on Thursday.

“We know that Kelowna is a community that has been exploding as have the metro region and cities on Vancouver Island as examples.”

Not only is the community growing older, but Penticton is growing at a much slower rate than neighbouring communities.

According to Statistics Canada, Penticton only grew at 2.5 per cent, reaching a population of 37,736 between July 1, 2022, and July 1, 2023.

“That is really attributed to the land availability. Communities like Kelowna, and Vernon and West Kelowna have a lot more land. We are limited with our land area, so we’re finding ways to grow despite that. We do see positive population growth in the future, but more challenged than other areas,” said Laven.

“Despite the fact that Penticton has lower growth rates than some of these other communities, we’re still growing at a very healthy rate. In some respects, that’s almost more immutable, because we’re not going to have some of the growing pains, traffic congestion or infrastructure challenges that you have in some of these really fast-growing areas.”

Meanwhile, the City of Penticton says it is working to attract more younger families to the area, in order to create a balanced community.

“I think you want to have that population profile that is balanced because you want to make sure you have enough working age people to support a large retirement community,” said Laven.

“You need people to provide the health care, you need people to provide the services, all the great work in all the recreational or all the hospitality industries that we have here. It’s very important that you have that balance.”

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