Key findings

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In 2006, 33% of seniors in Canada were residing in predominantly rural regions. Yet, predominantly rural regions accounted for only 30% of Canada's population in 2006. Hence, a higher share of seniors was living in predominantly rural regions.

In 2006, within predominantly rural regions, 15% of the residents were senior compared with 13% in predominantly urban regions. In all three census years examined for this bulletin (1986, 1996 and 2006), senior shares in rural areas were above the Canadian average.

Rural non-metro-adjacent regions were aging the fastest in terms of their growth in the share of seniors. This was probably related to the out-migration of youth and/or the in-migration of seniors to retirement towns located in the countryside.

The slowest growth in the share of seniors between 1986 and 1996 was seen in rural northern regions which had only a 1.1 percentage point increase. In contrast, between 1996 and 2006 the slowest growth was in predominantly urban regions. For all regions, with the exception of predominantly urban regions, the share of seniors increased more rapidly during the 1996 to 2006 time period.

When measuring "aging" in terms of the growth in the number of seniors, the growth rate was lower in predominantly rural regions than in predominantly urban and intermediate regions in both time periods. Between 1986 and 1996 the growth rate of seniors in rural non-metro-adjacent regions was only 24% compared to 34% in predominantly urban regions. The growth rate across all predominantly rural regions during this time period was 26%. Rural northern regions were the only rural regions that did not follow the pattern of a slower rural growth rate. The growth rate of seniors in rural northern regions was 33%, similar to predominantly urban regions.

With the exception of rural northern regions, predominantly rural regions had the highest old age dependency ratio in all three census years. The old age dependency ratio for rural metro-adjacent regions and rural non-metro-adjacent regions varied between 17% and 25%.

Predominantly urban regions had an old age dependency ratio of 14% in 1986 and 18% in 2006. In both years, rural northern regions had an old age dependency ratio of less than 10%. In 2006, the old age dependency ratio was somewhat lower in rural metro-adjacent regions than in rural non-metro-adjacent regions.

A community that is aging may be increasing in terms of the share of seniors or the absolute number of seniors, but it is not necessarily increasing in both measures.

In the 1986 to 1996 period, approximately 70% of all communities increased in terms of their share of seniors. In the 1996 to 2006 period this increased to approximately 80% of communities.  During  the  1996  to  2006  period, 97% of rural northern communities aged in this way, compared to only 75% of communities within rural metro-adjacent regions.

Between 1986 and 1996, 73% of all communities experienced an increase in the absolute number of seniors while from 1996 to 2006, 67% of all communities aged in this way. Communities in predominantly rural regions were less likely to be aging in the dimension of an increase in the number of seniors.