Thursday, May 17, 2001

Census show Tristate graying

Area's median age now at 35.1 years

By Tim Bonfield and John Byczkowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The latest census numbers confirm what so many Tristate residents know from simply looking in the mirror: Our region is getting older. Much like the nation in general, the median age of Greater Cincinnati continues to rise as the baby boom generation adds gray hair.

        According to figures released today from the 2000 census, the median age of the Cincinnati metro area is 35.1 years, up from 32.3 in 1990 and 29.4 in 1980. That means half of local residents are older than 35.1 years old and half are younger.

        Overall, the community remains slightly younger than the national median age of 35.3 years, but we're catching up. In 1990, there was a 0.6-year age gap between Greater Cincinnati and the national average. Now, the gap is 0.3 years and the Tristate has a larger percentage of people between ages 35 and 54 than the nation in general.

   The 10 Tristate places with the highest and lowest median ages (with % change since 1990). Median means half the population is older and half is younger. The national median age in the 2000 Census was 35.3 years, up 2.4 from 1990. (Population figures for Ohio townships include residents of villages and cities inside them.)
Amberley Vill. ....... 48.2 yrs, down -0.6
   Glendale ....... 45.1, up 4.2
   Indian Hill ....... 44.7, up 1.4
   Crestview Hills ....... 43.6, up 9.2
   Evendale ....... 43.1, up 7.1
   Montgomery ....... 42.6, up 2.7
   Madeira ....... 41.6, up 2.3
   Sycamore Twp. ....... 41.6, up 2.5
   Cold Spring ....... 40.6, up 4.5
   Wyoming ....... 39.9, up 4.5
Oxford ....... 21.5, down 0.2
   Oxford Twp. ....... 21.4, up 0.1
   Amelia ....... 28.5, up 0.6
   Burlington ....... 30.9, up 2.2
   Lincoln Heights ....... 31, up 0.9
   Bethel ....... 31.2, up 0.8
   Independence ....... 31.3, up 1.8
   Elsmere ....... 31.3, up 2.3
   Trenton ....... 31.3, down 1.6
   Addyston ....... 31.4, up 3.1
        That means the graying of Greater Cincinnati is likely to become more intense in years to come. And that means the community will face more pressure than ever to deal with long-simmering aging issues.

        “There are going to have to be many reforms to the system,” said Robert Logan, chief executive of the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio. “The way we did things 30 years ago or 20 years ago will not be acceptable now or 10 years from now. People are going to demand more options.”

        It will be 15 years or more before the peak of the baby boomers reaches retirement age, but the nation already has begun to debate adding prescription-drug benefits to Medicare, Social Security reform, even changing the retirement age.

        Spending on nursing homes already has become a problem for Ohio's Medicaid budget. Meanwhile, counties that have senior services tax levies face pressure to increase them. And counties that don't have such levies face pressure to create them.

        Call it the price of success. Thanks to improvements in public health and medical technology, more people are living longer. Some are living better, remaining healthy and independent many years into retirement. Others are struggling to cope with multiple, chronic illnesses while living on low, fixed incomes.

        Increasing attention is being focused on the small but growing number of residents aged 75 and up, who demand far more medical care than younger groups. For Greater Cincinnati, that's 5.6 percent of the 2000 population, compared to 5.9 percent nationwide.

        “Are we prepared? Probably not right now,” said Lynn Olman, president of the Greater Cincinnati Health Council. “The big question is: How will we take care of all these people? Will it be institutions like nursing homes, senior day care, or in-home services?”

        While the Tristate census data shows an overall increase in age, the impact has not been felt evenly.

        In Hamilton County, Cincinnati remains relatively young with a median age of 32.1 years. Instead, the graying of the community has been happening mostly in areas outside Cincinnati's borders — particularly in Hamilton County.

        Five of the 10 oldest municipalities locally are inside Hamilton County: Amberley Village, Glendale, Indian Hill, Evendale and Montgomery, all with median ages ranging from 41.8 to 48.2 years. The Hamilton County communities of Kenwood, White Oak and Dillonvale also fall into this same, older median age bracket.

        Yet even among neighborhoods, the trends driving increasing ages can vary widely.

        Crestview Hills now ranks as the area's fifth oldest municipality. Its median age leaped 9.2 years since 1990 to 43.6 years — the fastest growth in age of any Tristate community.

        To Kevin Celarek, city administrator, the reason is plain — 200 new apartment units and 100 new condos in three years, all of which cater heavily to seniors in a community that has about 1,400 housing units. The only concern: making a deal with nearby Edgewood to expand emergency medical service to the city.

        “We're getting a lot of retired people coming over to Crestview Hills, and that's fine with us,” Mr. Celarek said.

        In Evendale, the median age jumped an unusually high 7.3 years, but the percentage of seniors living there has stayed near the community average.

        Evendale Mayor Doug Lohmeier said the age shift reflects low housing turnover in a built-out community.

        “I was talking to a Realtor the other day who said there's only two to five houses for sale in Evendale at any one time,” Mr. Lohmeier said. “A lot of people moved here (in the 1980s), have kids in college now and have no intention of moving.”

        In Deer Park, which has one of the area's highest percentages of people over 65, the city's median age actually went down from 38.6 in 1990 to 38 in 2000.

        Francis Healy, 76, who had been mayor of Deer Park for 24 years until he retired nearly two years ago, said the change reflects young people buying starter homes from a generation of post-World War II homeowners after they have died, moved to retirement homes or cashed in on rising property values to move to Florida.

        “I never thought I'd see the day when homes in Deer Park would sell for $130,000, but some have. Twenty years ago, those homes were selling for $40,000 or $50,000,” Mr. Healy said.


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