Developments in Hamilton and the Country’s Aging Population

Canada is currently undergoing a shift in its demographics. As time goes on and we move
further away from the 20th century, the population of Canada is getting older. This may sound
self-explanatory, but in reality its meaning goes deeper than face value. As a whole, the proportion of
Canadians that qualify as senior citizens is growing, a result of reductions in both fertility and mortality
of the general population, combined with the natural aging of the baby boomer generation. The
boomers’ aging is likely to have significant effects on nearly every aspect of the country’s infrastructure,
from health, to transportation, to housing. According to Statistics Canada, the proportion of seniors will
increase from 15.3 percent in 2013 to possibly as high as 27.8 percent by 2063. In turn, the median age
will shift from 40.2 in 2013 to a possible high of 46.5 by 2063. Finally, as of July 2015, Canadians aged
65 or older outnumber those aged 14 or younger.

A City Snapshot

In Hamilton, our 2016 population was estimated to be approximately 525,000, based on 2011
census figures and current levels of growth. By 2031, the city’s population will reach 660,000 and is
expected to reach as high as 780,000 by 2041. A larger proportion than ever will be seniors. What does
this mean for investment and planning in the city? From an investment standpoint, there is a strong
possibility of portions of this soon-to-be senior population choosing to downsize from their single-family
freehold homes to one of the many condominium buildings throughout the city, perhaps one of the
many currently under construction. They may also choose to relocate into other forms of simplified
living, such as to assisted living or retirement homes, etc. Purchases and development of such
properties will prove to be smart investments sooner than later. From a planning perspective, such a
situation could mean several things: A substantially larger elderly population will have massive effects
on our healthcare, transportation, and physical infrastructure systems; as the population ages, more of
our citizens will end up in long-term care wards, putting a strain on our already-encumbered healthcare
system; in Hamilton we, like the rest of the country, suffer from a lack of hospital beds and qualified
health-care providers. This will mean a decline in the quality of care, less formal communication, and
even more downloading of responsibilities onto secondary providers, such as personal support
workers, home support workers, community care workers, or a patient’s family and loved ones. Further,
if the market continues to grow, even at a modest rate, there is increasing likelihood that the number of
Hamiltonians unable to afford housing will increase. In that case, affordable housing for our seniors,
complete with full accessibility for the disabled population, will have to be a top priority.
To say that an aging population does not present substantial problems to a community is
nothing new. Scholars and professionals have been examining their intersecting effects for the better
part of a decade. Here, we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the more tangible, short-term effects
and what they may mean for Hamilton.

Transportation Infrastructure and Mobility

For readers not well acquainted with the city, there have been a number of conversations over
the years that have had the effect of nearly dominating civic and popular discourse among its
politicians, activists, professionals, and entrepreneurs: In recent memory, we’ve argued about the
economic viability of a casino, the location of a stadium, and most recently, whether light-rail transit
(LRT) is a good idea or a bad one that far too many people are spending far too much airtime, ink, and
money discussing. Slated to begin construction in 2018 and be complete by 2024. We are not going to
exhaustively discuss the pros and cons of LRT, more examine whether it is smart investment from the
perspective of use by a Hamiltonian senior.

For a senior, there is a distinct possibility that LRT would prove to be beneficial to the seniors
population of Hamilton. While a great number of them currently drive, as a senior ages there is
increased likelihood of a loss of driving privileges as their sight and reflexes age to such a point where
driving is no longer a safe or viable option. As such, the city will require alternatives. Already, the city’s
longstanding bus-based transit system, run by the Hamilton Street Railway Company (commonly know
as the HSR) already sees increased ridership from Hamilton seniors over other demographics, with the
exception being highschool-aged students. Certain areas of the city, however, remain underserved by
the HSR. Prominent LRT activists and staff suggest that, in order to see the greatest economic returns
in terms of ridership and upheaval along LRT corridors, LRT will travel primarily along King Street, from
McMaster University in the west to the Queenston Traffic Circle in the east. Within the two end-point
stops on either end, there are 12 stops interspersed along the route, totaling 14 stops. For an investor,
purchasing and developing along this route would be a wise notion. As LRT construction gets
underway, property values along the route are likely to skyrocket.

However, this is a span of approximately 27 km. At 14 stops, that means a span of nearly 2km
between each LRT stop. Under the current HSR system, there are over 35 stops between McMaster
and the Traffic circle, meaning senior citizens have a far shorter walk under the current system. It
means there are far fewer delays along a route, caused by riders boarded and disembarking. From a
commuter’s perspective, this is ideal, but from a senior’s perspective, it could be anything but. Part of
the implementation of LRT will be the rerouting of current bus routes. The goal of the planning team is
to maintain the current level of bus service, but move the stops around in such a way as to make room
for the rail system. For seniors, it must remain of the utmost importance that the currently existing
transit infrastructure be maintained.

On the other side of infrastructure, walkability should remain a top priority. Much research has
shown that one of the best ways to keep people happier and healthier is to keep them fit and active.
This is doubly true for our senior citizens, who benefit from exercise more than younger adults by
ensuring their joints and muscles stay healthy, ensuring their independence. Such walkability and
physical activity are effective treatments for heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes. From an investor’s
standpoint, this means building for seniors in the future. It doesn’t necessarily require you to do so for
your next purchase, but it means having it in the back of your mind for the next few years. That portion
of the population is growing faster than you may think, and they’ll need places to live sooner than later.

Final Thoughts

The issue of an aging Canadian population is not a new one. It is a discussion that has been
carried out by many different industries and their experts. A more novel conversation is what effect this
new norm would have on individual cities and their infrastructure. Here we’ve attempted to have the
briefest discussions on what this would mean for Hamilton. If you’d ever like to learn more about any of
the points discussed above, please contact me or my team and we’ll work to keep you informed and
knowledgeable on Hamilton, its economy, and the housing market!

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