AN extra 21,000 people are expected to be living in Inverness by the year 2035 as the city’s population rockets by 28 per cent, it has emerged.
And the number of pensioners will to more than double which could place huge strains on elderly care services.
Population predictions – based on recent birth, death and migration rates in the city – have been published by Highland Council.
Researchers have estimated that another 21,795 people will be resident in the Highland capital in the next 23 years, bringing the total population up to 96,000 inhabitants.
Out of that, 24,879 people will be past the retirement age of 65 compared to the current 12,000 retirees.
The council’s planning and development staff warned the precarious national and international economies and depressed housing market could affect migration in the short-term.
However, the construction of the multi-million University of the Highlands and Highlands campus at Beechwood, with funding for a potential extra 3,000 students over the next three years, coupled with the burgeoning renewables industry, could prompt a boost.
About 715 people a year are expected to migrate to Inverness.
Council depute leader David Alston said the projections could not be 100 per cent accurate but said it was likely the population would increase with people moving for work, to raise families or enjoy their retirement.
“These new residents help to maintain the strength of our communities, boost our economy and maintain the number of children in our schools,” he said. “To gain these benefits, it is essential that we remain an open and welcoming place.”
Councillor Alston said the biggest challenge would come from a bigger OAP population but insisted it did not automatically mean more care homes would have to be built.
He said that retired people contributed an enormous amount in communities and still lived healthy lives but an increase in people aged over 75 would place the greatest strain on care services.
“The whole idea is to enable people to stay at home, I don’t think we should be thinking about care homes,” said Councillor Alston, who added the authority had earmarked £3 million on “preventative” spending.
A chunk of that money will be used to help OAPs with mobility and other problems in their own homes before their situations deteriorate and they may require long-term residential care.
Meanwhile, the number of working-age city residents is forecast to rise from the current 48,717 people to 64,456 individuals. The number of children up to the age 15 will increase to more than 16,000, up from the present 13,600 youngsters.
The Inverness population increase is the biggest hike in the Highlands, which is set for a 15 per cent rise to 255,835 people.