Data Sense: Older adults driving local population growth

Advertisement

photo

Brandon Owens

The impact of the Great Recession on Routt County was widespread. There were visible signs of change such as falling real estate prices, declining retail sales and rising unemployment. However, the Yampa Valley also was affected in a less visible but potentially longer-lasting and more meaningful way. The recession accelerated a demographic transformation that already was underway.

According to estimates from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs State Demography Office, after growing at an average rate of 2.1 percent between 2006 and 2009, the population in Routt County declined from 25,509 in 2010 to 23,240 in 2012. When we examine the change in population by age group, clear trends emerge.

U.S. Census Bureau data reveals that the population reduction occurred as a result of the movement of working adults and their families out of the Yampa Valley. However, the recession did not impact the migration of older adults into the valley. Fact is, Routt and Moffat counties increasingly have become destinations for older adults and retirees. Since the recession, older adults have become the driving force behind all population growth in the valley. This demographic shift is transforming the face of the Yampa Valley and has big implications — from the mix of local businesses to enrollment in schools.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the year 2000, children 19 or younger accounted for 25 percent of the population in Routt County, adults 20 to 59 accounted for 67 percent, and adults 60 years or older accounted for 8 percent. By 2009, the share of children had fallen to 23 percent and the share of working age adults dropped to 66 percent. In contrast, the share of seniors had increased from 8 percent to 14 percent. In fact, the growth in the population of older adults accounted nearly half of the entire population growth between 2000 and 2009.

By 2012, the impact of the recession had rippled through the population. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, more than 900 working age adults left the county between 2009 and 2012, and the population of children declined by 246. However, the flow of older adults in the county continued unabated. This age group is driven here by quality of life, not jobs. The number of older adults in Routt County increased by 796 even though the total population in the county fell by 354.

So which direction are population levels headed? If recent history is a guide, the number of older adults in the county is likely to continue to rise at a rate of at least 300 people per year. At the same time, the outward flow of working age adults and children appears to have tapered off. After this year, it’s reasonable to expect positive net migration in the range of 300 and natural population growth (i.e. births-deaths) of about 150 per year. This means that the population likely will grow at about 450 people per year or a rate of about 1.8 percent during the next several years. This doesn’t rule out future positive migration levels from families and working age adults. However, more local jobs and location-neutral work opportunities will be required for that to happen. In the meantime, we’ll continue to witness the graying of Yampa Valley.

Routt County's change in population by age group, 2001 to 2012

Comments

Scott Wedel 9 months, 2 weeks ago

So any hint in the data whether older people moving here are staying for several years or are they staying until death?

The difference could make a big difference. If they are coming as young retirees and leaving in a 5-10 years then soon we will see about as many older people leaving as arriving. If they are staying for life then we will be seeing far more elderly people with serious health issues.

0

Michael Bird 9 months, 2 weeks ago

 Among the many advantages of living in SBoat/Routt Co., the welcoming attitude of our medical doctors toward medicare receipants is perhaps the most important. In addition, our superb hospital facility makes it safe for older residents to be here rather than having to travel long distances for advanced care.Add our wonderful varied restaurants, myraid pleasant activities,  and overall great climate and it's a great place to live for all, isn't it ?
0

Michael Bird 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I didn't realize that I could choose a type face or I wouldn't have choosen the type used for my above post.

0

Scott Wedel 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm not saying that this isn't a nice area. The winters here are rather tough and the high altitude is an added strain.

The statistics cited in the article say that the portion of the population 60 and older has increased sharply. That age range corresponds to the start of the baby boomers.

Presumably, the late arrivers are here while they are in good health and can easily enjoy this area. The question is there data suggesting what is happening as they age and have health issues? Are they staying here even as their health deteriorates until they die? Or are they leaving to places with easier winters as their health issues mount?

0

Stuart Orzach 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Brandon, The math has me puzzled. The percentage shares of the population, from the U.S. Census Bureau data, that you report for the 3 age groups for 2000 add up to 100%. Your numbers for 2009 add up to 103%. Could this account for some of the growth or am I missing something?

0

Michael Bird 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Scott,perhaps I can answer your questions for, at least, a portion of the elderly. Each winter we (wife&I) and others leave SBoat for a warm location. We (wife&I ) go to very south TX where there are 800 RV/mobilehome parks along the Rio Grande and the residents bring along their health issues but keep their summer location as their home. Yes, some do decide to permanently move to TX,AZ, etc. but it's a small %. So I believe most aren't leaving but may not be staying here during the winter as they go to a southern State like AZ, TX, etc. I am the first to admit that I don't have data.

0

Scott Wedel 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Michael,

Did you move here as an older adult? If so, my question would be whether SB is your home for life? Or is SB more of your home for now and you think you'll move somewhere else in a few years?

Seems to me that people that move here as an older adult can easily enjoy this area, but without deeper connections to the area that it is also easier to leave when the winters are no longer fun. And seems to me that it would be easier to call somewhere else home and spend 3 or 4 months here for the summers than calling this home than calling this home and wintering for 5 or six months elsewhere.

0

Martha D Young 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Is the development of the Casey's Pond complex any indication of the presence of not only an aging population but of an increased demand for such a facility? It's implausible that the developer sunk money into the project without a belief that there would be people wanting to use it.

0

Scott Wedel 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Well, obviously the developers believe there is an unmet demand. I think part of the justification of Casey's Pond is that it has more levels of care than the Doak and so they can more effectively bill Medicare for more patients.

They may also be hoping to have local residents bring their parents here for a suitable living situation.

The article also does not mention how many of the reduction in working age adults and increase of adults is from aging. It isn't clear how much of the reduction in working age adults is because locals are getting older and thus being placed into a different statistical category. And there could be fewer children because the existing kids get older and reach 18.

So it would seem to be possible that a big part of what is actually happening is young families not moving here and the existing population is just getting older.

0

rhys jones 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Maybe the decline in working-age adults is because there are FEWER JOBS.

0

Robert Dippold 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm one of these older adults that will be moving to SB. I will stay as long as I can do the activities I want to do. I don't envision dying in SB, it will be a phase of my life Once I can't do the activities that the area offers then I will move to an "easier" location to live. The other thing to consider is that we plan on having our house full of visitors (friends and family" for probably half the time. I would think that the economic impact of people like myself would be significant for the area because of the effect of bringing 30 people a year on vacation.

0

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.