County Elderly Population Grew 50 Percent In '80s

June 14, 1991|By Paul Shread | Paul Shread,Staff writer

During the 1980s, Anne Arundel County's elderly population increased50 percent while total county population grew 15 percent.

"We hadanticipated that this was coming," said Charles Lawrence, assistant director of the county Department of Aging. "A 50 percent increase sounds about right, even though it's quite startling."

The figures, from preliminary 1990 census data, are from a 96-page report recently published by the county Office of Planning and Zoning. Senior planner and demographer Alexander "Sandy" Speer compiled the report, which looks at population, employment, income and housing in the county.

The figures underscore trends and problems that county officials have long been aware of, such as a decline in school-age children, an increase in single-parent families and a dwindling stock of affordable housing.

The number of people in the county over age 65 increased from 25,085 to 37,565 between 1980 and 1990. The county's population, meanwhile, grew from 370,775 to 427,239.

The number of people who consider themselves handicapped because of age increased 51 percent, from 10,949 to 16,562.

Lawrence hasn't seen the report, but he said the graying of the county reflects a national trend, as well as the flight of elderly residents from Baltimore to surrounding counties. He said the census data will mean more federal money for senior programs but also a greater challenge for his agency to meet the needs of elderly residents.

Population trends in Anne Arundel County generally reflect national trends, Speer said. "The population is aging, and there aren't as many children of baby boomers," he said.

The "baby boomers," ages 25-44, increased from 116,996 to

152,013 during the decade, an increase of 30 percent.

The number of children ages 5-17 decreased 9.4 percent during the 1980s, from 81,018 to 73,441. County school enrollment decreased from 70,114 to 64,914.

Children under 5 years old -- the "baby boomlet" from baby boomers beginning to have their own children -- grew from 24,968 to 31,747, an increase of 27 percent.

"We're experiencing another boomlet," said George Hatch, planning officer for the county school system. "What we're experiencing is a decline in new enrollment, but the incoming first grades and kindergarten are increasing over previous years. For the next five or six years, that's going to continue, and then maybe drop off."

Hatch said school enrollment declined in the late 1970s and early 1980s and began to increase in 1986. "Population comes in waves, or hills and valleys," he said.

The number of black residents in the county increased 17 percent during the 1980s, from42,860 to 50,525. Blacks make up 11.8 percent of the county population, up slightly from 1980.

The number of Asian residents increased83 percent, from 4,196 to 7,675. As a percentage of county residents, Asians increased from 1.1 percent to 1.8 percent.

Hispanic residents increased 48 percent, from 4,595 to 6,815. They make up 1.6 percent of the county's population.

The median family income in the county rose 86 percent during the 1980s, from $24,771 to $46,208. Inflation over the same period increased 70 percent. Speer attributed the rise in earnings to an increase in the number of two-income families and an increase in the earning power of the baby boomer generation.

At the same time, the number of families living below the poverty level increased 17 percent, from 4,862 to 5,677.

Single-parent families increased 53 percent, from 9,477 to 14,545.

"A lot of growth in the poverty area has been in the single-parent family area," said Yevola Peters, director of the county Community Action Agency. "Most single-parent families are headed by women, particularly in the poor area."

The number of unemployed residents dropped during the 1980s, but with layoffs during the last year, Speer estimates there are now 8,742 unemployed county residents, slightly more than in 1980. The unemployment rate in the county is 4 percent, compared to 5 percent in 1980.

The cost of renting or owning a home in Anne Arundel County rose faster than the rate of inflation during the 1980s, according to other census figures compiled by Speer.

The median cost of a home rose from $65,700 to $127,900, an increase of 95 percent. The median rent in the county increased 125 percent, from $237 to $534.

Peters said the figures underscore the need for affordable housing.

"Part of what this data does, hopefully, is to help people understandthat there is a problem," she said. "My opinion is that these problems can be solved, if people set their priorities to solve them."

Most county residents -- 69 percent -- still live in single-family homes, up from 68 percent in 1980. The number of apartments and multifamily homes increased slightly, while town homes increased 62 percent, from 14,225 to 23,004.

Speer will update the report this fall whenfinal census data comes in.

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