Of the many conversations Yellowknifer had with seniors ahead of Wednesday’s special edition, one topic kept coming up: shifting trends for migrating seniors.
“You went up North to make money so you could afford to retire in a place where the environment was something you were more used to, where family and friends were,” said John Soderberg, Yellowknife Seniors’ Society president.
But not anymore, said Soderberg, who’s observed fewer seniors flocking to south post-retirement. Leaving the North after making your money, he said, was common practice for those who came to Yellowknife in the late ’60s and ’70s.
“In the 1990s there was a large exodus of people who all reached that retirement age at about the same time. Most of them left town,” he said.
“But as time went on, government employees who came up when they were a little bit younger, they met people here. They had families. (Yellowknife) ended up being there home,” said Soderberg.
With strong family ties today that didn’t exist decades ago, Soderberg says more and more seniors are calling the city their home – for good.
Patrick Scott, senior and owner of Birchwood Coffee Ko, echoed Soderberg’s observations.
“When I first came here, the more common practice was – make your money and check out to some warmer place,” Scott said, calling the developing an “interesting change.”
“People of my time are more inclined to stay here than go somewhere else,” he said.
But are these prevalent anecdotal reports backed by statistics? NWT Bureau of Statistics statistician Vishni Peeris said recent numbers suggests it is.
When looking at just “the straight population, so as a population of the total, seniors in Yellowknife have a higher proportion of the total,” she said.
While Peeris couldn’t say for sure if the spike in seniors’ is directly related more older adults opting to make Yellowknife their home base, she said the data suggests it could be a factor.
Former Yellowknife mayor Gordon Van Tighem said “excellent” services for seniors in the city could could be keeping seniors in the city, while bucking a decades-old trend in the process.
“Come up here to Yellowknife – there’s one hospital and they can look after most things. Parking is free if you’re over a certain age. All facilities and transit are half priced if you’re a senior,” he said.
“We’re well looked after,” said Van Tighem.
Even without definitive numbers on the influx of retired seniors’ staying in Yellowknife, one thing is for sure – Yellowknife’s senior population is set to swell in the coming years. By a lot.
According to a recent report from the NWT Bureau of Statistics, the territory is on pace to see more than an 80 per cent upswing the number of residents aged 60 and over by 2035.
In Yellowknife in 2016, 1,981 residents were aged 60 or over, while there were 1,055 adults over the age of 65. By 2021, it’s estimated that the number of residents over 60, and over 65 will jump to 2898 and 1,705 respectively.