The face of Prince George is changing.
It's a little grayer, a little more wizened and has a lot more free time.
Just like in communities across the country, the population in Prince George is aging.
Numbers recently released by Statistics Canada show that local residents aged 65 and better make up almost 12 per cent of the city's population.
Ten years ago they made up seven per cent .
A decade from now, seniors are projected to close in on 20 per cent of Prince George community members.
This trend isn't a surprise, said local community development expert Dr. Greg Halseth, but groups are only just starting to identify it as an issue.
For example, the federal government is set to raise the eligible age to collect Old Age Security payments from 65 to 67 by to lighten the tax burden on the shrinking working age population.
According to the government, 13 cents of every federal tax dollar is currently spent on the OAS program but if no change is made, that spending will have to increase to 21 cents.
Seniors currently make up nearly 15 per cent of Canada's population.
"So this is not a new issue. What we need to think about however is how we're going to cope with this transition and we have to understand what it means," Halseth said.
And it doesn't necessarily mean an immediate drain on resources.
"As people move into their early retirement years, they tend to be fit, active and healthy and they tend to volunteer a lot for their communities - they really become an asset for the community," Halseth explained. "So even though we might have a magical number on our stats of age 65, it doesn't mean that people suddenly move into old age."
And they're also not moving out of their homes.
"What we're finding in the north is the historic pattern of people leaving when they retire seems to be not as prevalent anymore," Halseth said. Retirees are preferring to stay near their family and friends and keep up lifestyle they're accustomed to. "They like the environment, they like fishing, they like hunting, they like skiing."
But for the baby boomers who can't stay in their homes, the city has already begun to make space for them.
The first residents were recently welcomed into the new 36-unit affordable housing development for seniors right downtown.
"Our society saw a real need for more affordable and accessible housing for seniors in the City of Prince George," Kathi Heim said in 2011. Heim is the executive director of the Prince George and District Elizabeth Fry Society, which spearheaded the $6-million project.
The Sixth Avenue residence is for both seniors and people with disabilities with rent that doesn't exceed 30 per cent of the tenants' annual income.
Census statistics also indicate that not only is Prince George getting older, there are less youngsters to take their place.
Within the last decade, there was an 18-per-cent drop in the number of children under the age of 14.
With those numbers, it's easy to jump to the obvious conclusion of shifting available resources from the young to the old.
But Halseth warns against such a practice.
"Across northern B.C., we actually still have a larger cohort of young people than we typically find in other regions," he said.
Eighteen per cent of the local population is aged 14 and younger, compared to more than 15 per cent in B.C. and almost 17 per cent nationally. But by 2022, the Prince George share will drop to less than 16 per cent.
"It's not as easy to just shift resources. We have to pay attention to services for young people as well as services for healthy and active seniors and then slowly, years out, services for seniors who need an increasing level of care," Halseth said.
The professor points to the pathway system through Lower College Heights - a community built for young families in the 1970s - as an example. A few years ago, the city improved the trails and paved many of them to make it easier for older people with decreasing ease of mobility to use them. But in turn, it also helped incoming young families with strollers.
"A lot of things you'll find are good investments to make for a high quality of life for older residents is actually a good set of investments for all residents."
What the city will have to keep an eye out for is staying competitive for those old enough to fill the vacant positions left by an increasingly retiring workforce.
Halseth predicts that in 10 years, there will be more jobs than prospective employees.
"It will be one of the first significant bodies of job openings since the 1970s," he said. Those of a working age (15 to 64) are projected to still make up 65 per cent of the Prince George population by 2022, compared to the 70 per cent of today.
"That means they'll have choice. So if your community isn't competitive for that next generation workforce, they're not going to come to your community."
The city's marketing branch, Initiatives Prince George (IPG) is focusing on attracting and retaining people to the north over the next several years, said acting CEO Heather Oland.
There is an estimated $35 billion worth of major projects planned for the region, which are going to require a significant amount of labour.
"It's not just labour for the hands-on work for those projects - but all of the suppliers and the supplies for those projects. You think about how much work that is, how many things need to get from A to B, so think about trucking throughout the entire economy," Oland said. "Everything from skilled labour to skilled trades to professionals and corporate services to support all that. So the need in the labour market is going to be diverse."
And like in the 1970s, these workers are going to be looking for cultural amenities along with good schools, health care, parks, housing, recreational facilities and an all-around good area to raise a family.
"It's our job as Initiatives Prince George to market and sell the community as a great place to live, work and invest. And it's business's job to sell their own businesses as great places to work. So we need to work together in that regard," Oland said.
Most of this workforce will be homegrown and from the local aboriginal population, but there are also mechanisms in place to draw skilled workers to town.
A report released in May by the province's Immigration Task Force predicts more than a million job openings in B.C. over the next decade and that one-third of these will need to be filled by migrants from outside of the province and even the country.
The immigrant population of Prince George has held steady at 10 per cent over the past 10 years but if proposed changes to immigration policy to make it easier for workers to emigrate come to fruition, that could rise.