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Census figures show aging of village — Boomers dominate census

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Yellow Springs is aging more rapidly than anytime in at least the last 40 years, as its median age rose more than seven years in the last decade alone, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures. Meanwhile the number of village youth remained steady while the largest population losses were seen in its college-age population and among the middle aged.

The village’s median age rose to 48.5 years in 2010, more than double its median age of 22.7 in 1970. Yellow Springs now has the highest median age in the Dayton area. The percentage of villagers 45 years and older has grown from a quarter of the population in 1980 to more than half.

As a whole, Yellow Springs lost 7.3 percent of its population, or 274 residents, in the last decade, falling from 3,761 in 2000 to 3,487 in 2010, continuing a 40-year population slide that has left the village with 24.6 percent fewer residents than in 1970. However, the 2008 closure of Antioch College, which had between 500–600 students in 2000, played a significant role in this decline.

Here come the boomers

In the last decade the population grew most quickly among the baby boomers, the cohort of those born between 1946 to 1964. The number of Yellow Springers aged 55 to 65 rose from 390 to 632 people in the last decade. Yellow Springs is aging faster than the rest of the state and the nation as well. Yellow Springs’ median age is now nearly 10 years higher than the rest of Ohio.

The town’s oldest residents — those 85 and older — doubled to 142 people in the last decade. Some of the increase can be attributed to growth at Friends Care Community. Now more than 20 percent of the community are senior citizens (those 65 and older), up from 17 percent in 2000 and just 8 percent in 1980.

In addition to retaining its older generation, the village may also be attracting new residents who want to retire here, including those who have returned after growing up in the village. Village Manager Mark Cundiff said Yellow Springs is a desirable retirement community because of its walkability, stable housing values, and opportunities for healthy living.

“This town is attractive to a lot of different people and especially for that older group because you’re going to get money out of your house eventually,” Cundiff said. “And you can walk downtown to Tom’s [Market], the hardware store, the pharmacy.” Cundiff added that the town’s numerous wellness practitioners and the bike path are appealing to an older population looking for a healthy lifestyle.

Also attractive is Yellow Springs’ low cost of living compared to other retirement communities, according to Chamber of Commerce director and Council member Karen Wintrow.

“Our property taxes are competitive with other retirement communities, and our cost of living in general is less expensive for older people,” she said. “It’s the type of town people want to retire to.”

This week Wintrow received an e-mail from a prospective resident whose children had recently grown up and left home.

“I would like to rent a single family house preferably with a white picket fence, an apple tree and a tire swing,” wrote Kris Reed from Chillicothe. “[My daughter] told me about Yellow Springs and how you could walk to town and there were trails to walk my dog and massage therapists and art, so it sounded like a great place to relocate for me.”

College closure impacts

Another reason the village’s median age rose sharply was because of the loss of the majority of the Yellow Springs’ college-aged population when Antioch College closed in 2008. The town shed 355 people between the ages of 19 and 24 in the last decade. That segment of the population fell from 14 percent of the population in 2000 to just 5 percent by 2010.

Antioch, which reopens this fall, has also added to the village’s middle-aged population over the years as students have stayed after graduation and professors and staff have come to town to work at the college. The decline of enrollment at Antioch, from around 1,000 students in 1970 to about 600 students by 2000, and its three-year closure, may have reduced the college’s contribution to this demographic sector.

In fact, Yellow Springs lost ground in every age cohort between 25 and 54, which, taken together, fell from 1,518 to 1,241 people. The number of villagers between the ages of 25 and 44 fell was about 24 percent in 2000 and today is closer to 20 percent. Ohio actually lost population in this age group even faster in a phenomenon called the “brain drain.” But compared to Yellow Springs, the state still has a higher percentage of residents between 25 and 44, at 25 percent.

Fewer jobs, fewer people

Another reason behind the drop in middle-aged residents may be the decline in jobs in the community over the last decade. Between 1998 and 2005, the town lost 500 jobs due to the reduction in workforce at Vernay Laboratories, The Antioch Company, Wright State Physicians and Antioch College. As of 2008, the village gained back more than 300 jobs, likely in its small-to-midsize businesses. But Wintrow said many employees, especially at the town’s larger businesses, don’t live in town.

Tina Lagos, who lives in Springfield but owns the 50-unit Hawthorne Place Apartments on West North College Street, said she has fewer renters because of the lack of local jobs to attract new residents while other renters are leaving town when they lose their jobs.

“There are so many people leaving the area because of lost businesses and because there are no jobs,” she said. “We’re definitely not having the influx of young people as we did 10 years ago because there’s nothing for them to do.”

Because of this, Lagos said she believes there’s an excess supply of rental housing, including at Hawthorne Place. The Census numbers support this. In the last 10 years the rental vacancy rose from 4.7 to 7.9 percent. When the Census was taken, there were 52 rental units unoccupied (compared to 21 in 1990 and 29 in 2000).

Youth are stable

Even with fewer middle-aged villagers, the number of children and teens in the village has stayed relatively stable over the last decade. The number of residents under 18 dropped slightly to 688, from 693 in 2000, but rose as a percentage of the population from 18.4 percent in 2000 to 19.7 percent in 2010. The youngest age groups have seen the greatest growth, though it has been slight. Those under 10 years rose to 353 people, 10.1 percent of the population, from 8.7 percent in 2000.

In-district student enrollment at the Yellow Springs schools confirms the trend. There enrollment increased by seven students over the decade, to 602 in 2009, after having declined by one-third since 1975.

Challenges and opportunities

The most dramatic demographic trend is the rising median age in the village, which has been growing faster than the state and country for at least the last 40 years. Whereas Yellow Springs had a median age five years younger than the rest of the state in 1970, it is now 10 years higher. In 2000, the village median age was six years higher than the national average.

David Scott, executive director of the Yellow Springs Senior Center, sees a growing senior community as an asset, not a burden.

“The whole take on it is, ‘Woe is Yellow Springs,’ but I think we’re blessed,” said Scott, one of a growing group of former Yellow Springers who returned upon retirement.

Scott said that many seniors want to continue to contribute to their community, not just “sit and play shuffleboard,” and Yellow Springs, with its intellectually-stimulating activities and numerous civic and cultural organizations, affords them many opportunities to do so. Plus the rest of the community benefits from seniors’ life experience and time and desire to volunteer.

But an aging population also has its challenges, including how to care for ailing elderly residents, and how to attract more working residents, young and middle aged, who would pay income taxes to help support Village services.

“We have to figure out a way to take care of one another,” Scott said. “It takes a village to care for its seniors.”

Wintrow added, “The problem is, it’s not sustainable because of the fact that [retired seniors] are not paying income tax.”

“We need wage earners — we need people with jobs,” she said.

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