Suburban population: Elderly not leaving, young not moving in
A new study by the Brookings Institution tells us what we already know: Young people don't want to move to the suburbs. Over the past decade, the percentage of suburban residents 45 or older rose from 34 percent to 40. And that trend isn't likely to change. Instead of moving to Arizona or Florida, where housing is pretty cheap, seniors are deciding to stay put.
The aging demographic will inevitably lead to a fundamental shift in suburbs. Instead of focusing on young families, as they have for two generations, suburbs will need to cater to older people. School districts will shrink as the child population dwindles, and funds will most likely be diverted to elderly care programs.
It's visible in Fairfax County already. Transportation planners are adding countdown clocks to pedestrian signals, so elderly residents can more accurately judge how much time they have to cross the street. Police are investigating more financial crimes against the elderly. Montgomery County has created a website dedicated solely to senior services.
In a few generations, we may find that the suburbs have withered off and died. They'll be replaced by smaller towns, as they were in the pre-war days. Strip malls will become swimming holes. The skeletal frames of Ford Explorers, perched on cinderblocks, will be overtaken by weeds. Instead of two Olive Gardens in town, there will be just one.
We can only hope.
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