What the 2021 census tells us about the Fraser Valley’s aging communities

The valley is getting older. But some communities are aging faster than others. Here's what the 2021 census tells us about the valley's demographics.

By Grace Kennedy | April 29, 2022 |5:00 am

The Fraser Valley is aging.

Although residents may have known this for a while—calls for more senior services and other “anecdata” abound—new census data shows just how fast the region’s population is getting older.

The valley has nearly 28,000 more seniors than it did a decade ago, with more than 85,000 people over the age of 65 living between Langley and Hope. This age group accounted for 23% of all residents in 2021. (In 2011, people over 65 made up 19% of the population.)

It’s not the only demographic to have grown in numbers: the number of children has increased by nearly 10,000 in the last decade, and the number of young adults has risen by twice that amount. But those jumps paled next to the dramatic increase in seniors across the Fraser Valley, whose numbers rose by nearly 50% in the last decade.

Of course, not every municipality saw the same changes. Some communities are aging faster than others—although none are getting any younger.

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The oldest in the valley

There are at least two ways to calculate which community is the oldest in the Fraser Valley. But whether you look at the median age (the age where half the population is older and half are younger) or at the proportion of seniors, Harrison Hot Springs tops the list.

Harrison Hot Springs is the oldest community in the Fraser Valley. 📸 Grace Kennedy

The median age in the community is 57 years old. Nearly a third of its residents are 65 or older, and another third are between 40 and 64 years old. Although there are more children in Harrison than there were five years ago, it still has the lowest proportion of newborns and kids under the age of 15 in the entire valley.

The youngest community, on the other hand, is Mission.

Mission is the youngest community in the Fraser Valley, although it was a tight race against Abbotsford. 📸 Grace Kennedy

In Mission, half of all residents are younger than 40. Although that isn’t actually the lowest in the Fraser Valley—Abbotsford has a median age of 39—Mission has the lowest percentage of seniors and one of the highest percentages of children in any valley community. In short, Mission has more very young people and fewer middle-aged people than Abbotsford. (Only 16% of Mission residents are over the age of 65, while 19% of its residents are under 14.)

The rest of the Fraser Valley communities fall somewhere in between Harrison and Mission. Langley City has the highest proportion of young adults. Langley Township has the largest group of teens. And Kent has the largest share of seniors over the age of 85 compared to its total population.

Not every community in the Fraser Valley has the same amount of seniors. Some communities have a significantly higher proportion, while others have more younger folks. 📸 Grace Kennedy

The fastest aging community

Although Mission may be the youngest valley community for now, that may not last forever. In the last 10 years, the city has seen the greatest increase in the proportion of its population who can call themselves seniors. It now has 2,200 more people over the age of 65 than in 2011. The only other communities to see similar increases were Kent, Hope, and Langley Township.

The raw population numbers here show how fast different age groups are growing, and which communities have the largest populations. 📸 Grace Kennedy

Despite being the oldest community for now, Harrison Hot Springs experienced the largest spike in the number of young adults. Although it only welcomed 115 new people between the ages of 20 and 39, that made a significant change in the demographic make-up of the small resort community. (Harrison historically has a small proportion of teens living in the village, so it is more likely young adults are newcomers than existing residents.)

Harrison’s spike in young adults is nearly double the increase that happened in nearby Hope, which experienced the second highest amount of growth for young adults. There, the number of people aged 20 to 39 increased by about a third, while Harrison’s young adult population increased by more than 56%.

The raw population numbers here show how fast different age groups are growing, and which communities have the largest populations. 📸 Grace Kennedy

Where does this leave us?

The Fraser Valley is changing. The latest demographic data from the 2021 census suggests where the next set of pressures will come from.

Across the valley, an increasing proportion of seniors will lead to a greater need for seniors services like tech support, accessible transit, and long-term care homes. Increasing numbers of young adults show the need for more entry-level housing. As those young adults age, many will have children, and although birth rates have fallen across the valley in the last decade, the absolute numbers of babies have not. That means a greater need for school services in the future, along with housing with enough space for families to grow.

You can read more about these topics and others in The Current’s Changing Valley series. The Current will be reporting on additional census data as it’s released throughout the year. You can find out first story on the 2021 census here.


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Grace Kennedy

Reporter at Fraser Valley Current

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