Yorkshire faces a demographic time-bomb that threatens to “rip the heart out” of many towns and villages and distance them further from the region’s thriving cities.
Population projections show that the combination of an ageing population and the drift of the working age population to major urban centres seen in recent decades will continue to dramatically re-shape Yorkshire in the coming years.
Analysis by the Centre for Towns think tank for The Yorkshire Post reveals that the number of over-65s in the region is set to increase by a massive 42 per cent by 2038, while the overall population rises by just six per cent.
Towns and villages are forecast to become much older in the next two decades, increasing the dependency of residents on the working age population, while cities and bigger towns are expected to age at a much slower rate.
Grassington in North Yorkshire is projected to go from having 82.4 over-65s per 100 working age people to 121 by 2038, while Filey's 'old age dependency ratio' will jump from 62 to 90 in the same period.
At the other end of the scale, Leeds's old age dependency ratio will be just 25.8, only slightly higher than it was in 1981.
The trend has already been felt in the last 40 years, according to the Centre for Towns, with Leeds younger at the time of 2011 census than it was two decades earlier, while towns and villages are older.
And residents in one Yorkshire village have been forced to scrap annual events such as the scarecrow competition and neighbourhood bonfire due to a lack of volunteers, with its ageing population thought to be to blame.
The Yorkshire Post today launches A Tale of Two Yorkshires, a week of special reports exploring the consequences of the growing demographic divide between our towns, villages and cities.
The Centre for Towns’ Lisa Nandy, MP for Wigan, said the phenomenon accounts for “a lot of the problems” that reach parliamentary postboxes, including declining high streets, growing loneliness, and sluggish local economies.
As jobs and opportunities have left towns for cities, they leave behind “very visible economic and social consequences”, with towns at the sharp end of the social care crisis, unsustainable and disappearing transport networks and the closure of high street pubs, banks and shops.
“What that's done, taken collectively, is rip the heart out of many communities across the country,” she says.
Age UK Charity Director, Caroline Abrahams, said: "Rural communities are ageing rapidly, and geographical isolation and local services are under real pressure.
"Village shops, pubs and bank branches are putting up the shutters at an alarming rate and these closures, along with the decline of local transport, tend to hit older people particularly hard."
To read the full special report, pick up a copy of The Yorkshire Post today. There will be more coverage and analysis every day until Saturday, August 18.