Middle aged, in Ridgefield, means 44

Over the 2000-2010 decade, there was an upward shift in the age of Ridgefielders, with a notable drop in 30-somethings in town. Ian Murren chart

Ridgefielders aged four years in a decade. Well, as a group, anyway.

The median age in town rose from 39.4 in 2000 to 43.5 in 2010, according to U.S. Census figures. That means half the population is over that age and half the population is under it.

“The baby boomers are getting to be 65, and they want something different for seniors,” said Chris Robertson, the chairman of the Commission on Aging, and The Press’s Senior Scene columnist. “It’s going to make a big difference…

“People are not interested in going into assisted living or nursing homes. They want to stay at home and look after themselves for as long as they can, and that’s a big change since 2000.”

Nationally the population is aging, too, and Connecticut has one of the highest median ages in the country. It’s one of only seven states with a median age 40 or over.

Ms. Robertson says there’s more for seniors in town than ever before, pointing to the senior discount Gold Card in which many merchants participate, the sweetHART bus, free movies at the Playhouse, and the library.

Over the 2000-2010 decade, the town gained a number of amenities geared to the older crowd. The Toll Brothers’ Regency condos for people 62 and older was built, and Ridgefield Crossings, which shares a driveway with the Regency was completed at the tail end of the previous decade in 1999. The Founders Hall senior center was also built over the decade, and the Housing Authority has added to its age-restricted housing stock.

Broken down by 10-year age groups, the 40-to-49ers remained the predominant age group in town. The group gained 68 new members from 2000 to 2010, but that didn’t keep pace with the total population increase from 23,643 to 24,638 for that decade, so the group lost about half a percentage point. It now comprises 19.2% of the town, down from 19.7%.

Breaking the population down by mid-decade to mid-decade slices, the impact of the later baby boom-era folks is more visible: The 35-44 group was 20% of the town’s population in 2000, but in 2010 made up 14%, while the 45-54 group went from 17% to 20%.

On either side of the middle, the shift becomes evident.

The 30-to-39-year-old group shrunk by 1,579 people, and dropped 7 percentage points over the decade from 14.8 to 7.8% of the total population.

Meanwhile, 50-to-59-year-old block grew by 877 increasing from 14% to 17% of the Ridgefield population.

The 60-to-69-year-olds gained 607 members and rose two percentage points.

It’s hard to predict what impact the baby boomers will have on Ridgefield’s age a decade from now.

“There’s an increase in seniors coming into town,” Ms. Robertson said. “There’s also an increase of seniors leaving town, too.”

Finance Board Chairman Dave Ulmer hasn’t closely examined the numbers, but he offered some insight into how economic factors play into age make-up of the town, and vice versa.

He said in an email that the shift in the toward older residents remaining in town in 2010 could have been that “people don’t want to sell their homes at current low price points, even if their children are out of school, and were holding on until the market improves. Some of which may still be the case…

“Plus, job mobility and employment opportunity in Fairfield/Westcester counties is what drives turnover in the town,” he added. “So, I suspect the aging numbers also have something to do with fewer jobs or lack of new jobs and low turnover.”

The 70-to-79-year-old group gained 279 members, and increased from 4.6% to 5.6% of the population.

The 80-to-89 crowd grew even more — with 303 more, for a gain of 1.1% bring them to 3.3% of the town’s population.

Those in the second-most senior bracket were more plentiful in 2010 than 2000. There were 128 nonagenarian Ridgefielders in 2000, and in 2010 there were 179 — an increase of 51. The group grew 40%, but being so small, the relative boom didn’t move the needle far, bringing the group from 0.5% to 0.7% of the population.

There were even 50% more centenarians in Ridgefield in 2010 than in 2000 — an increase of two, which pushed the mark from four to six.

Very young children lost ground over the decade. The under-10 bracket was 770 children smaller by 2010, with 3,403 counted. That meant a 3.8 percentage point decline from 17.6% to 13.8%.

That’s a group that is closely monitored by the school district as it plans to close one of the town’s six elementary schools.

The  10-to-19 year old population grew over the decade,  from 14.3% to 17.7% of the town’s overall population.

The 20-29 group, much smaller than the adjacent age groups, rose a bit, too, from 4.4% to 4.9% of the total population.

Broken in half, the 20-24 group, which includes college age people, at 647 in 2010, was about half the size of the 25-29 group, which had 1,239 members. In 2000 the split was sharper. There were 428 in the younger group, and 1,953 in the elder.

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