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Gray New World

Nevada is transforming from the Silver State to the silver-haired state as its population ages and birth rates slow.

State demographer Jeff Hardcastle projects that seniors will make up 31 percent of Nevada’s population in 2030, up by more than 50 percent from 2010 levels.

Already, as young people leave to seek work in the city, several of Nevada’s rural counties have median ages that are older than the nation as a whole. The state’s urban centers are growing older, in part, because real estate developments geared toward retirees are luring new senior residents.

Exacerbating these trends is the tendency for women to have fewer children. In 1970, Nevada’s birth rate was 20 per 1,000 of the population, today that’s down to 12 per 1,000, according to Hardcastle.

This graying population will require different approaches to education, healthcare, housing, and recreation, but these demographic changes will also create new opportunities, according to population trend expert John Saeger.

“There’s certainly cause for contemplation and action, but not so much for concern and certainly not for alarm,” said Saeger, editor of “The Good Crisis,” a new book that looks at how an aging population will affect society as a whole.

Saeger said an aging population pales in comparison to other great problems the world is facing like climate change, and he said there are "more opportunities rather than challenges, if we go about it the right way."

For instance, not only is America aging, people are having smaller families, which means costs associated with having children like schools and health care could be shifted to care for older Americans. 

He said another big piece of the puzzle for turning an aging population into an opportunity instead of a challenge is increasing people's productivity.  

"Another piece is doing a better job of enabling the people who are here to be productive members of the work force," Saeger said, "I think today there are many barriers in the way of doing that effectively."

The Southern Nevada Strong plan initiative released a report last year that predicts that the percentage of the area's population over 65 will rise from 13 percent to 23 percent by 2050. 

Henderson City Councilwoman Debra March was head of Southern Nevada Strong when the report was released. She said she was initially surprised by that statistic but became less so when she thought about all the amenities that Southern Nevada has to offer to seniors.

"I think we offer many amenities and are working to develop further amenities whether its in health care or quality of our education or the quality of our services," she said.



John Seager, population trend expert;  Jeff Hardcastle, demographer, State of Nevada; Debra March, city council, Henderson 

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With deep experience in journalism, politics, and the nonprofit sector, news producer Doug Puppel has built strong connections statewide that benefit the Nevada Public Radio audience.