St. Albert continues to grey after new census numbers show the seniors' population on the rise.
Some 26 per cent of St. Albert's 60,138 residents are over the age of 55, or 15,380 people, according to the 2010 municipal census released this week. That is an increase of more than two per cent since 2008, and a five per cent jump from 2005.
St. Albert's downtown came in as the oldest neighbourhood demographically, with the 65 and older crowd representing 60 per cent of residents. In contrast, seniors represent just two per cent of North Ridge, one of the city's newest subdivisions. As for living arrangements, 31 per cent live in apartment-style dwellings, while nine per cent live in a single-detached home.
According to 2009 municipal censuses in both Edmonton and Strathcona County, seniors represented 18.8 and 23.4 per cent of the population, respectively. Those between the ages of 25 and 55 made up 40.5 per cent of the Edmonton population and 43.3 per cent of Strathcona County's population. St. Albert is not far off at 41 per cent for the same range.
Corporate services general manager Dean Screpnek said the city would use the demographic data to review services and ensure the city is able to best meet the needs of residents.
"If anything it means we need to be aware of that shift," he said. "Council may need to shift their priorities to accommodate the senior population in our community."
Goodbye to the young people
Coun. Len Bracko said he was not surprised with the rate of growth among the 55-plus crowd over the last five years. As a long-time advocate of preparing for the grey wave, Bracko said the figures reflect not just the aging baby boomer generation but the cost of living in St. Albert.
"St. Albert has said goodbye to the young people because they can't afford to live here," he said. The situation has grown such that even seniors are reporting difficulty affording the city.
Bracko said the city's falling birth rate is another red flag. In 2005, 28 per cent of the population was under the age of 19. That number was just 26 per cent in 2010. Bracko says this is a concern for the sustainability of the municipality.
Chris Jardine, general manager of community and protective services, countered that the population shift isn't necessarily worrisome. The city needs to ensure its current programs and other facilities are geared to the aging population, such as in new cultural and recreational master plans, currently under way.
"Just because we have this change of demographics doesn't mean it is a negative thing," he said. "The question that needs to be asked is, is this a problem or not?"
Jardine said the census results do show a need for the city to draw more families to the area. Everything from urban planning to recreation would need to be considered in creating a plan for new families.
However, there is no easy answer to how the city would try to balance out the demographics going forward, he added.