elderly are moving to mountains to stay
and GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
The numbers are
in. Blaine County residents, particularly in Sun Valley and Ketchum, are
The median age of
Blaine County residents jumped from 33.3 in 1990 to 37.4 in 2000. The
number of county residents 60 or older jumped from 9.6 percent in 1990
to 11.7 percent in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The aging trend,
which holds true for seven of Idaho’s counties, is happening both
because older people are moving to rural areas and people living in
those areas are choosing to stay as they get older, said University of
Idaho professor of family and consumer sciences Virginia Junk.
surveyed five of Idaho’s seven aging counties in an attempt to explain
why it’s happening, what the older citizens’ concerns are, and how
aging is impacting affected communities.
lifestyles and outdoor recreation topped the list of reasons more people
are choosing to grow older in Blaine, Boise, Bonner, Custer and Valley
counties, she said. Traffic congestion, land use changes and growth
topped the list of concerns among 65 and older residents surveyed in
In each of the
five counties, the population 65 years and older has grown between 13
and 25 percent through the past decade, Junk said.
Sun Valley and
Ketchum easily topped the list of fastest-growing elderly populations.
The median age of
Sun Valley residents increased from 35 in 1990 to 47.5 in 2000.
In Ketchum, the
median age increased from 33.4 in 1990 to 39 in 2000.
age increased from 31 in 1990 to 33.3 in 2000. Bellevue’s increased
from 32.3 in 1990 to 33 in 2000. The median is one of three measure of
"central tendency" in statistics. The other two are the mode
(most frequent) and the mean (average).
The mode for all
four cities and the county in 1990 and 2000 was the 25- to 44-year-old
Of the four
cities, Sun Valley is the one that has grown the oldest. In 1990, 11
percent of its population was 60 years or older. In 2000, the number
jumped to 27 percent.
The percentage of
those 60 or older in Ketchum jumped from 8 percent in 1990 to 15 percent
In Hailey and
Bellevue, the percentage declined. In Hailey, in 1990, the percentage of
those 60 or older was 9. In 2000, the percentage dropped to 8.
administrator Jim Jaquet interpreted the impact of an aging population
on the city in terms of vibrancy.
As long as the
resort economy is vibrant, he said, the city also will be vibrant. He
noted there has been no slowdown in construction and the level of
service provided by the city has steadily improved.
Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber of Commerce marketing director, said the
older age of the community mirrors the older age of the resort’s
While she said she
sees a benefit to age diversity in a resort community, the economy
probably won’t suffer because of a shift in age.
In fact, Junk
said, Blaine County’s economy could see an indirect benefit from its
move when they’re older tend to have higher income, more education and
better health," she said.
That means they’re
typically involved and are willing to spend.
Junk said there
are several similarities between the five counties she began surveying
over a year ago.
compared them, these very beautiful areas popped out," she said.
"We saw a pattern there. They’re all close to the mountains and
are very beautiful places."
Over the past
year, Junk mailed surveys to older residents of the five counties and
asked what their primary concerns are. Junk said some of the results
and traffic congestion were concerns, but generally (those who
responded) weren’t anti-growth. We didn’t see too much evidence of
timing of stoplights to give older people time to cross the streets
surfaced. Also moving of post offices out of the downtowns like they did
in Hailey, because they like to socialize there. Also, there aren’t
many assisted living facilities. Some wanted to bring their parents to