THERE are some Friday mornings when you would struggle to get a seat at the Ballina Senior Citizens hall.
Each week a group gathers to play cards, and while there are enough players to fill plenty of tables, they are but a small sign of a much broader trend occurring in Ballina, and the Northern Rivers at large.
The population is aging, with many people reaching their later years calling the Northern Rivers home.
Figures from the Bureau of Statistics show nearly one in five (20 per cent) Ballina local government area residents is aged 65 or older, the highest proportion on the Northern Rivers.
Over-65s make up 18 per cent of residents in Richmond Valley and 16 per cent in Kyogle and Lismore. Byron has the lowest proportion of over- 65s at 12 per cent.
Excluding Byron, the other local government areas on the Northern Rivers have a retired population greater than the rest of Australia. Nationwide 13 per cent of us are 65 or older.
Talk to members of the Ballina Senior Citizens Club and they will tell you there are plenty of reasons why thousands of retirees call Ballina home.
“The services are good. We have plenty of doctors, the hospital is close, and we have lots of chemists,” member Clare Smith said.
“The churches are local and most of the denominations are covered for.
“I believe we have everything we need to attract new people to the area. It speaks for itself.”
Beyond their Friday card game, Ballina Senior Citizens members take part in weekly line-dancing classes, tai chi and indoor bowls.
And while members at the club have made the most of a burgeoning elderly population, there is a recognition our region must adapt to meet the changing demographics.
The Northern Rivers Social Development Council’s CEO, Tony Davies, said that theaging population presented both challenges and opportunities.
“It contributes to employment growth as people work to support elderly,” he said.
“The challenges include the need for medical services and transport infrastructure to maintain quality of life.”