Archive for Friday, March 10, 2006

Kansas becoming a gray area

Census report shows several state counties among oldest in nation

March 10, 2006

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The heads in Smith County, Kan., are grayer than most places in the nation.

"We do have a lot of elderly people in the county," said Judy Butler, who works in the county appraiser's office in the north-central town of Smith Center. "There's more elderly than young people, I'm sure, because we have an older population. There's not much here in Smith County to keep the younger people here."

In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Thursday that Smith County has one of the oldest populations in the nation: It ranks 16th in the country, with 27.9 percent of its population over age 65.

Smith County is far from alone in Kansas. The 258-page Census report, taking a national look at the aging process in the United States, painted the state as disproportionately old:

l 40 Kansas counties - more than a third - reported 20 percent or more of their populations over the age of 65; the national average is 12.4 percent.

l 23 Kansas counties were among the nation's top 80 with the highest percentage of residents over age 85. Nebraska, in second place, had just 13 ranked counties. Smith County ranked fourth in the nation in this category, with 5.47 percent of its population attaining "oldest-old" status; Osborne and Cloud Counties were right behind, ranking fifth and sixth nationally.

l 6.6 percent of Kansans over age 65 were reported to be living in nursing homes, one of the highest rates in the nation.

"It doesn't really surprise me," said Shelley Bhattacharya, a geriatrician with the Landon Center on Aging at Kansas University Medical Center. "But it changes a lot of things, as far as policy."


A new Census report reflects the aging Kansas population. Residents of Presbyterian Manor, a retirement community at 1429 Kasold Drive, include from left, Luverna Hauschild, Dorthea Evans and Zelma Funston, who discussed the day's activities Thursday.

A new Census report reflects the aging Kansas population. Residents of Presbyterian Manor, a retirement community at 1429 Kasold Drive, include from left, Luverna Hauschild, Dorthea Evans and Zelma Funston, who discussed the day's activities Thursday.

Caleb Asher, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Commerce and Housing, said it would be a mistake to think that all people over 65 have left the work force and are a drag on the economy. The department has several programs in place to train older workers and find them jobs with new companies.

"There are people who are wanting to work longer, who are able to work longer, and we want to make sure that, if they want jobs, we can help them," Asher said.

Bhattacharya agreed. The newest generation of elderly Kansans, she said, are "more educated, they're more financially stable, they're well-traveled."

The state, she suggested, isn't quite prepared to handle the continued aging of its population.

"There's definitely a paucity of geriatricians out there, not just in Kansas but nationwide," she said. "I think we need to focus to train more, to employ more, to attract more geriatricians to Kansas."

Back in Smith County, Butler isn't hopeful for a reversal. She's turning 65 this year; her son left town awhile back for a job in Liberal.

"It's just the way it is, the way it has been," she said. "It's sad. It's too bad there isn't something to keep the young people."

Comments

Liberty 9 years, 4 months ago

OldEnuf2BYurDad,

Quoting: "I think the writing is on the wall: the family farm paradigm is dying, if not dead."

This is the reason that the family farm is such a good deal right now. It is an excellent time to buy a family farm and develop it. Over the next few years, you will probably be very glad you did.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 9 years, 4 months ago

Liberty:

I think the writing is on the wall: the family farm paradigm is dying, if not dead. Remember when grocery stores and markets were all family owned? Now, it's Hy-Vee and Walmart. The family farm is both a cultural phenomenon as well as a business model. As a business model, Darwinism says "so long", which is why the cultural feature is doomed.

On a different note: our leaders need to be crapping their pants. Any town with no youth eventually dies. Any state with no youth will do the same. In a couple of generations, Kansas may be in receivership.

MapMadeMind 9 years, 4 months ago

Rarely if ever have I heard more true statements made in a reader's comments section. I am currently volunteering as an Americorps VISTA in North Central Kansas, attempting to aide in the attraction of businesses and retainment of youth. It's tought times up here, but hopefully some small changes can be made...and snowball into bigger changes.

Confrontation 9 years, 4 months ago

A majority of students in my high school were farm kids. Sadly, most of their family farms are going under and being sold to corporate farmers. I do know that several of my classmates went to college, and still returned to help on the farms. It sure is hard to find someone who values hard work over bling-bling.

ben_ness 9 years, 4 months ago

Perhaps if the elderly were still teaching their children how to live and provide for themselves on the farm, (selling to private markets for income) the children would not run off to some overcrowded city, get a job to join the 'work job and pay high bills' grind. There is more to life than making enough money just so you can pay more taxes and bills, and then find out at the end, when you're worn to a frazzle, that you still don't have enough to retire on and your kids are hardly part of your family and don't visit you or help you in old age.

liberty - There are some truth in these words. My folks live on 120 acres between Lawrence and Baldwin. They raise horses, they keep Themselves healthy through daily chores and enjoy their lifestyle. They have also supported me 100% in moving to the bigger city lifestyle in pursuit of a meaningful career - which is easy to nurture in a bigger city. It really does seem like a catch 22 for many; however, on the flip side some of the most successful people I have met in the corporate world were raised on farms and developed a very strong work ethic as a result. For a young, successful, careerminded person there is no better place to be than a big city - even if you were born in a barn.

Liberty 9 years, 4 months ago

Perhaps if the elderly were still teaching their children how to live and provide for themselves on the farm, (selling to private markets for income) the children would not run off to some overcrowded city, get a job to join the 'work job and pay high bills' grind. There is more to life than making enough money just so you can pay more taxes and bills, and then find out at the end, when you're worn to a frazzle, that you still don't have enough to retire on and your kids are hardly part of your family and don't visit you or help you in old age.

It would also help to keep our kids on the land so they can inherit the family farm, learn from their parents how to grow their own food and provide for themselves and others. To be creative to invent new ideas and make some of your own energy to lower your bills. Also your family stays together more (the way it used to be) to help take care of the elderly parents when needed and keep that ability to be rugged and sense of survival and independence (freedom) while having a family of their own.

Our society has lost their ability to survive and endure. Most teach their children that there is nothing for them in rural life so they should leave to become "important and educated" and get "a good career" to provide for their future. While knowledge is good, and makes the man or woman able to do more things, careers in the city are dissappearing at a record pace. Instead it turns into going from job to job as they are outsourced outside of the USA and wages are suppressed. You end up constantly retraining for the next new job and never get ahead because you are busy starting over all the time and your children suffer because your lives are so consumed with making money to fit in the system.

Perhaps the rural life of peace had more to offer and the grass was not really greener on the other side (in the city) after all.

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