EDMONTON – At a time when most of the developed world is dealing with an aging population, Edmonton is becoming younger.

The median age of Edmonton residents dropped slightly to 36 in 2011 from 36.1 five years earlier, according to Statistics Canada.

That makes it the youngest major Canadian city and one of the few to see less grey hair.

“In the long run, it’s really good news for the city of Edmonton,” John Kolkman, research director for the Edmonton Social Planning Council, said Tuesday.

“It means those of us who are getting a little older, there are more young people coming forward after us.”

Kolkman included the age data in a new Vital Signs report on youth issues put out by the council and the Edmonton Community Foundation.

The median age in Calgary rose to 36.4 from 35.7 over the same period, still far younger than the median 2011 Canadian age of 40.6.

A strong economy and plentiful jobs are likely the main factors drawing young people to Edmonton, although the youth unemployment rate is twice the overall average, he said.

“People move here from elsewhere who are younger than average, and they have children,” he said. “(Also), we have a higher aboriginal population, and the aboriginal population is actually a full 10 years younger, at an average of 26.”

Coun. Ben Henderson said the city has been working to attract and retain young residents, whom he said are crucial to Edmonton’s future.

They’re drawn here by the high-calibre schools and the quality of life, as well as jobs, he said.

He’s not sure what facilities will be needed for a younger population, because the older generation has similar interests in recreation and entertainment.

But Henderson already sees a better mix of age groups on Whyte Avenue, with an older crowd getting dinner early in the evening and their youthful counterparts out later.

“They’re both finding a way to use the space. It’s not either-or, which we saw 10 years ago.”

Gaspard Momba, 26, moved to Edmonton from the Democratic Republic of Congo about three years ago to join his family and improve his education.

He became fluent in English after taking language instruction for newcomers at NorQuest College, where he is now studying several high school courses.

He wants to make Edmonton his home, working and volunteering on community projects.

“In Edmonton, there’s always an opportunity. Whatever you want to do, when you get yourself connected, you can. It really is the best place.”

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal
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