How will the Pontiac face its “silver tsunami”?

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Added: Thu, 01/18/2018 - 12:02am
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Carl Hager
Rédacteur en chef interim /
Interim Managing Editor

A “silver tsunami” fast approaches the Pontiac’s small rural municipalities. Stats Can shows a steady population decline in most rural communities. Young people leave for greener pastures – jobs, higher education and cultural variety. Seniors increasingly become the major demographic factor for municipalities. This
is usually accompanied with lower economic output, and brings with it unique problems of services, economic development, and citizen well-being. Hence, the “silver tsunami”.
This is not news, it’s been a long-term trend, but there does not appear to be much awareness among our elected officials of this changing phenomenon.
The Pontiac faces redefining its identity and re-constructing itself as a community that better fits this coming reality. It is profoundly disappointing that federal and provincial governments are ignoring these facts and leaving municipalities under-funded to cope on their own.
How can municipalities create conditions for an economic surge given these realities? There are opportunities here, as well as challenges; we need to look at how the challenges can open doors for new growth.
If seniors are our growth industry, municipalities must first respond to their needs.  We are creative, and can tie better senior care to an economy geared to tourism, our perennial potential. We can use modern methods -- innovative technology and sustainable energy resources.
What could an economic surge in the Pontiac look like?
As seniors grow in numbers, their towns need better access to health care and public transportation. Infrastructure is no longer just streets, water and sewers, but internet and cell service, ambulances and physiotherapy clinics. Housing needs change as seniors downsize; service jobs multiply. This can be a stimulus for renewal.
One thing is certain: a significant federal plan to address the steady decline in rural Canada’s prosperity is needed. Enough political chatter! Canada and Quebec both need a plan, and rural citizens must be consulted on their vision for an alternative future. Quebec and the federal government need to inject well-thought out stimuli to create this new direction. Tourism fits nicely with making the Pontiac a haven for retirees. Not only is the need here, but our geography lends itself to decentralized senior centres, cooperative housing projects, cultural activities, local shopping and personal-care services, and innovative ways of community living. Let Pontiac be a model case!
Paired with on-the-ground innovative technology, sustainable energy resources and a green economy, the Pontiac can grow its opportunities. Our Pontiac must redefine its future in such a way as to show what it can be, instead of trying to live what it has been.