Horizons lucrative for grayer Colorado

Like Colorado’s sawtooth peaks, which are indicative of young, rising mountains, Colorado’s population is relatively youthful.

Coloradans, however, are aging at a rate far more rapidly than that of their peers, demographically speaking.

That means the Centennial State is, in the word of state demographer Elizabeth Garner, becoming more “normal.”

“We were abnormal. We were really young,” Garner told the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday morning. Retirees are seeking out Colorado for several reasons, and many are finding their way to the Front Range, she said. Many others are looking to the Western Slope for its relatively temperate climate.

“We’re going to have a lot of older people, especially in this region,” Garner said.

By 2030, the number of people statewide aged 65 or older will rise to 1.3 million from the current 540,000, Garner said. With that comes several economic implications.

Retirement, much as it was during the post-1982 bust, will become an economic driver, Garner said.

Home builders, for instance, will have to take into account the difficulty older people will have with stairs, lawns that need mowing and the like, Garner said. Many aging Coloradans also will need health care, presenting a dual challenge, she said.

“We’re going to need doctors, and we’re going to need home-health aides” and be able to offer necessities and amenities suited to both, Garner said.

Local governments will have to take into account different spending patterns of an aging population, plus growing demand for public transportation.

Governments also must remember that older people tend to be reliable voters, Garner said.

One thing that seems unlikely to change is Colorado’s tendency to rely on nonnatives for population growth.

Over the last decade, 82 percent of the state’s rapid growth resulted from immigration to Colorado. The remainder stemmed from natural increase, or more births than deaths.

Younger people 18–24 who move to the state for work will continue doing so, drawn frequently by the same things that attract retirees, Garner said.


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