The Reeve of Piney says he views it as very positive that his municipality has the oldest average age in the southeast.

Data released from the 2021 Census shows the RM of Piney grew by 6.8 per cent in the last four years and now has a population of 1,843. It also shows that Piney has an average age of 45.9 years. By comparison, the RM of La Broquerie has the youngest average age at 31.3 years.

"It's a positive thing for us," notes Piney Reeve Wayne Anderson. 

Anderson says news of their aging population did not come as a surprise. All it did was confirm what they already know. He explains people grow up in Piney, then move away before coming back to retire. 

"We have a lot of retirees out here," notes Anderson. "It's a beautiful place to live and everybody wants to be here."

However, Anderson says unfortunately there are not enough job opportunities in Piney and he says there are also challenges in having an aging population. Yet, he notes they work around those challenges. For example, having so many seniors means a high percentage of your ratepayers are on a fixed income. Anderson says Council is very mindful of this and has not raised their mill rate since he was elected in 2014. Thanks to increased assessment, Anderson says they are able to still grow their budget. 

Martin Van Osch is Chief Administrative Officer for the RM of Piney. He says from an administrative standpoint, they look at growing programs that best suit their population. With a large segment of their population enjoying the outdoors, Van Osch says they have developed a trails plan the last few years.

"We've now got that plan finalized and it's available to partner with our community organizations just to see some active transportation paths established within our communities," adds Van Osch. 

Another initiative they have been working on the last few years is a transit plan in order to help those that are seeing increased costs in transportation. With their senior population tending to be on a fixed income, they are looking for ways to alleviate some of the skyrocketing transportation expenses. Van Osch says they were recently successful in securing federal funding for a regional research project into transit. They have also applied for the capital component by working in partnership with Buffalo Point First Nation and are hoping to expand that partnership to other neighbouring municipalities. 

Van Osch says they are also working on a number of age friendly initiatives with the Manitoba Association of Senior Centres. This includes examining how to improve communication with their senior population. 

"One thing that we need to realize is that seniors communicate differently than our younger generations," notes Van Osch. "So they rely heavily on printed newsletters, word of mouth and maybe less so on social media."

Not only is the RM of Piney attempting to cater to its older population, but Economic Development and Tourism Manager Monique Chenier says their major focus is also trying to keep young people in the region. This is being done through a community career symposium as well as a series of online videos to outline career opportunities in the region.

Chenier says there is also a new youth membership option with the Chamber of Commerce and currently they are working on a mentorship program so that youth can shadow some of the business leaders in the region.

'You've got some carpenter that has had a longtime successful business and is just about ready to retire, so let's bring on someone new, someone younger, get them trained up and sort of transfer that business over," she explains. 

Also, thanks to a grant through New Horizons for Seniors, Chenier says they have purchased a number of different pieces of equipment such as 3D printing and quality cameras. Chenier notes this is one way to connect young people with seniors.

"The youth would help the seniors figure out how to print their grandkid's picture on their T-shirt or on their coffee mug and that way sort of bridge that gap between our youth and our seniors and to benefit both of them," she adds.

And finally, because of the housing shortage in the region, Chenier notes thanks to a three way partnership involving the RM, Chamber of Commerce and East Borderland Community Housing, they are pursuing assisted living housing in order to keep seniors in the region.