GLENBURNIE — Frontenac County’s population could grow slowly and age quickly in the next 25 years, according to a new report.
The study of population, housing and employment for the county forecasts the county’s current permanent population of about 27,300 to grow about 0.65 per cent annually to about 33,200 by 2046.
That growth is matched by an aging of the population over that time.
“Frontenac County’s population is aging. It’s aging at a faster rate than the province as a whole, not because they are getting older any quicker but because we just have more residents that are in that age category,” Jamie Cook, a consultant with Watson and Associates and author of the report, told county council.
“It’s being exacerbated because of the demand that we are also seeing for residents who want to come here and are in that age group.”
In 2016, 21 per cent of the county’s permanent residents were 65 or older.
By 2046, 35 per cent of the population is expected to be in that age range.
“That’s a high number and one that is not necessarily going to come down for quite some time,” said Cook, adding that the senior cohort will likely grow even larger past 2046.
“You are not alone in this demographic trend. All across Canada and the western world this is a major implication we are seeing,” Cook told county councillors, adding that the aging population is one factor contributing to weak economic growth in recent years.
The new report revises a 2014 population forecast that predicted the county’s permanent population would reach 33,200 by 2036.
With their proximity to Kingston, about 80 per cent of the forecast permanent population growth is expected to be in South Frontenac and 11 per cent is anticipated to be in Frontenac Islands.
The addition of a second, larger ferry to Wolfe Island is cited as a reason for the island’s expected population growth.
The anticipated season population growth is spread out more across South, Central and North Frontenac townships.
The county’s population is expected to grow at a faster rate than the city of Kingston, but when taken together, the Kingston region’s population is forecast to grow at a slower rate than the provincial average.
Part of the reason for that slower than average growth is a low number of new people choosing to move to the county.
Unlike urban areas that attract younger people and young families, what immigration that does happen in the county is made up largely of older people seeking a place to retire.
The county can expect to see the permanent population grow at a faster rate than its season population in the next 25 years and the total population — including permanent and seasonal residents — is expected to grow from about 54,700 in 2016 to almost 63,000 in 2046.
The aging population is expected to affect the county’s housing sector, as new housing growth shifts more to the urban areas.
Housing growth, including season properties, permanent homes and conversions of the former to the latter, is expected to increase modestly until between 2026 and 2031, after which it will drop off significantly.
As its population grows, so, too, will the number of jobs in the county.
The county’s employment base is expected to grow by about 1,600 jobs, mainly in the retail and tourism sectors.
Modest job growth is also expected in the industrial sector related to small- and medium-scale manufacturing, construction, wholesale and transportation and warehousing.
A large portion of the predicted job growth is expected to be through home occupations and home-based businesses.
The expansion of high-speed internet service in the county is seen by many as a key to boosting job growth in rural areas.