High River takes Prairies seniors' title
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02:38

High River takes Prairies seniors' title

It's the greyest town in Canada's youngest region.

While the Prairies boast Canada's lightest sprinkling of birthday candles, the town of High River south of Calgary has the region's most aged population.

Of its 13,000 citizens, about 22% are over 65, a figure not surprising to 72-year-old John Down, who moved to the town in 2013 to downsize and escape Calgary's rat race.

"When I start to think about it, you go out for coffee or to eat and it's mostly seniors," said Down, who called High River a good place for the elderly.

"Everywhere you go in this town, you see a lot of seniors, it's easy living and friendly."

But High River Mayor Craig Snodgrass said those numbers create a misconception about his town.

"We might have a little more in that demographic than other surrounding communities like Okotoks, but it's a very young, commuter-driven community — Cochrane, Chestermere the same way," he said.

"High river is just a bit further out from the city."

Those census figures are nothing new to High River to Lynette McCracken, executive director of the town's chamber of commerce.

"High River was always known as a retirement town in Alberta," said McCracken, 61, who's called High River home for 21 years.

"It's a very walkable, easily driveable town."

Key to that has been the presence of a hospital, something that's doesn't exist in nearby Okotoks, she said.

It's not uncommon for Calgary retirees to sell high in the city and move to High River where prices are cheaper, said realtor Joyce O'Neill who markets home in the area.

"It's also the type of housing they have a lot of in High River, the villa housing that's lock-and-leave and you have snow removal done," she said.

In the spring, things pick up noticeably in the town with the return from the southern U.S. of the so-called snowbirds, said O'Neill.

But McCracken said the devastating flood of 2013 took a toll on the seniors' population.

"A lot of the seniors moved away and never returned, or they've passed on, so things are changing," she said.

And High River is positively cherubic compared to the nation's oldest precinct — Parksville, B.C. where 44% of residents are aged 65 or older.

BKaufmann@postmedia.com

source : Calgary SUN
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