Saturday, May 26, 2018
News Roundup

Pinellas has new look, fresh buzz but is still growing older

Pardon me for saying, but you're looking older.

It's nothing dramatic, and there is really no reason to panic. After all, with age comes wisdom and discounts at Denny's. But the truth is, the years are beginning to pile up.

Especially for you, Pinellas County.

And you too, Hernando.

Census figures released last week show a slight uptick in age for the entire country, but maturity is on a roll in certain parts of Tampa Bay.

Did you know, for instance, the typical person in Hillsborough County is 36.6 years old? That's a full year younger than the national average.

It's also a half-Miley Cyrus younger than Pinellas County, where the average person is 47.2. Pasco County comes in at 44.4 and Hernando is a crusty 48.8.

(Sumter County, home of the mega-retirement community the Villages, leads the entire nation with an average age of 65.5 and, presumably, an average speed limit of 25.5 mph.)

Of course, Pinellas has long been a haven for retirees, so it shouldn't be a complete shock that 2 miles' worth of bridge can add 10 years or more to a driver's license.

Still, a lot of the numbers were not what I would have expected. Not when you consider the changing vibe in St. Petersburg and the overall trends in this state.

Florida, you may know, is growing more rapidly than other states. Since 2010, our population has increased 3.7 percent, which is almost double the rest of the nation.

Yet the growth in Pinellas was only 1.3 percent, which trailed the national average. Hillsborough, meanwhile, was growing at a 4.6 percent rate.

Perhaps, if you consider Pinellas is nearly built-out, that makes sense. But that doesn't quite explain the demographics going in opposite directions in neighboring counties.

Residents over 65 continue to see healthy growth numbers in Pinellas and Hillsborough, not to mention Pasco and Hernando. But the similarities end there.

The number of children under 18 has dropped by 1.4 percent in Pinellas since 2010, and yet has grown by 2.6 percent in Hillsborough. The number of working-age adults, 18 to 64, has decreased about a half-percent in Pinellas, and has gone up 3.8 percent in Hillsborough.

Again, density plays a factor. The lure of beachfront property for retirees is another part of the equation. Experts would probably say the numbers were entirely predictable.

It's just not exactly what I expected.

Pinellas is a long way from those jokes about God's waiting room. Downtown St. Petersburg is nothing like the sleepy place I remember from spring games with my dad at Al Lang Stadium in the 1970s. The image, the buzz, the look has completely changed.

So it was interesting to discover the age gap between the bay area's two largest counties is still sizable.

Or, to put it another way:

At the current growth rate, one out of four people in Pinellas will soon be 65 or older. In Hillsborough, the ratio is closer to one out of eight.

As someone who is old enough to be stalked by AARP customer reps, I understand age does not have to be a big deal. Being older has its drawbacks and benefits, just like being younger. So if you feel the need to make jokes about us old folks, it won't offend me.

Just, you know, speak up a little.

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