Reflecting a national trend, Maryland's population grays

But census figures show a younger Baltimore, with fewer families, children

  • Chandra Travers,left, a CCBC student studying massage, gives a seated massage to Oakcrest Village resident Jeannette Seitz.
Chandra Travers,left, a CCBC student studying massage, gives… (Barbara Haddock Taylor,…)
May 26, 2011|By Yeganeh June Torbati, The Baltimore Sun

Driven by a sizable baby boomer population nearing retirement age, Maryland, like the rest of the nation, grew older in the past decade, but Baltimore bucked the trend, attracting more young adults as the number of its middle-age and retiree residents shrank, according to new census figures.

Marylanders' median age increased to 38, from 36 in 2000, according to the data, released Thursday by the Census Bureau. The country as a whole has aged in recent years: The median age in the United States was 37.2 in 2010, an increase of nearly two years compared to 2000 and the highest median age ever, according to the Census Bureau.

Maryland's 65-and-over set grew by more than 18 percent in the past 10 years.

Those that serve older populations, such as retirement centers, are taking note.

"There's going to be a significant shortage of … retirement communities in the next five years unless the industry as a whole starts building," said Lou Maranto, who directs sales and marketing for Erickson Retirement Communities. Oak Crest Village, an Erickson site in Parkville, is already near capacity, he said.

Renee Dintzis, 83, lives at Oak Crest with her husband, Howard. They decided to move there from their home in Guilford nearly two years ago after she broke several bones in falls. Her initial perception of retirement involved an inactive lifestyle, said Dintzis, who still teaches at the Johns Hopkins University.

"When I heard a friend of mine was going into retirement, I thought 'Oh no!'" she said. "I think they don't realize this is for active people who just don't want all the nonsense of taking care of a home."

As baby boomers begin entering Oak Crest, Maranto said, the staff there is noticing they are more interested in physical fitness. In response, the center recently changed its gym membership plan to include more residents, he said.

As medical advances extend life spans and people often live 20 or 30 years beyond retirement, governments are grappling with the impact of the demographic shift, said Judith Kasper, a public health professor at Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health who is conducting a national study on aging trends.

"There will be social and economic and cultural effects from the aging of the population," Kasper said. "There's not an easy single answer. Countries all over the world are recognizing this change, and trying to think about what the implications are."

One significant impact of the trend in Maryland was a drop since 2000 in the number of families with children — the first such decrease since at least the 1970s, said Mark Goldstein, an economist with the state Planning Department. Specifically, the decrease came in the number of families with their "own" children, the term the Census Bureau uses to describe a householder's biological, adopted or stepchildren.

The trend is remarkable. "Even … in the 1990s, there was a pretty substantial increase in the number of households with children," Goldstein said.

With a median age of 34.4, down from 35 in 2000, Baltimore is now the youngest jurisdiction in Maryland. The city and Wicomico County were the only jurisdictions that grew younger over the last decade.

In Baltimore, the data reveal not only a younger city but also one that is perhaps more transient, with the ranks of families thinning.

The drop in the city's median age is attributable partly to the addition of more than 17,000 people between the ages of 20 and 34 — an increase of 11 percent — even as the number of children in the city plunged by about 28,000. Fewer middle-age people — those between 35 and 44 — now live in Baltimore than 10 years ago.

Andrew Cherlin, a sociology professor at Hopkins, said the increase in young people is likely due to an influx of immigrants. Baltimore's Hispanic population has increased by almost 16,000 since 2000, more than doubling, and the number of Asians, particularly from India and China, also went up.

"Across the nation, most immigrants tend to be in their 20s and early 30s when they first enter the country," Cherlin said. "This used to be a city that was dominated by whites and African-Americans. It's now becoming more of a melting pot for the first time."

More detailed census data on the age breakdown of different racial and ethnic groups is set to be released this year.

The proportion of all Baltimore households consisting of family members — people related by birth, marriage or adoption — dropped to less than 54 percent, from 57 percent in 2000. Cherlin said that could be due to people getting married later in life, as well as families leaving the city because of concerns about schools and crime.

The proportion of city housing that is owned rather than rented slipped to lower than half. Ten years ago, a majority of occupied housing units were owned, but that number has decreased by 10,000.

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