Data shows aging of Fergus Falls [UPDATED]Published 11:00am Monday, May 16, 2011 Updated 11:01am Monday, May 16, 2011
Median age has increased
3.5 years in past decade
Residents of Fergus Falls and Otter Tail County are getting older.
New numbers from the 2010 census show that the city’s median age increased by three and a half years, from 39.8 years old in 2000 to 43.4 years in 2010. The age is even higher in the county, going from 41.1 years in 2000 to 46.3 in 2010.
Both the city and the county have higher median ages than Minnesota as a whole, and they’ve aged more, too. The state’s median age jumped only two years in the last decade, from 35.4 years to 37.4 years.
Not only is the population aging, but the number of very old people living the area has gone up, even while total population numbers essentially stayed the same or, in Fergus Falls’ case, went down.
Fergus Falls’ total population fell 333 in the last decade, from 13,471 to 13,138, but the number of people 80 and older went up, from 1,243 to 1,367 (a jump from 9.2 percent of total population to 10.4 percent).
In Otter Tail County, those 80 and older jumped from 3,347 to 3,689, a total of 342 more, while the county’s total population grew by only 144.
“In the last 10 years, there’s probably been more options made available to seniors,” said Mick Siems, director of the Mill Street Residence assisted living center. He pointed to the nursing homes in town (including PioneerCare’s new facility) as well as several senior-focused apartment complexes that have opened around the city. Siems said he believes the city is a draw for the elderly because of all the options open to them.
“If anything, people are coming here… because of our health care services,” he said.
Along with that, said Siems, the population can see an increase in the very elderly because advances in health care have allowed more people to live longer.
“People are living longer, and either they’re taking better care of themselves or they’re moving places like here where we can help take care of them,” he said.
Siems said the median age at Mill Street Residence has held steady at about 89 years old for the last several years.
Membership in the Fergus Falls Senior Citizen Program has gone up in the last 10 years, but it hasn’t been disproportionately weighted toward those 80 and older, said Kathy Sporre, the program’s supervisor. Instead, a broader range of activities and the addition of state-of-the-art physical fitness equipment in 2008 has expanded interest from all senior age groups, particularly who she called “younger older adults.”
Fergus Falls’ overall percentage of population age 65 and older stayed about the same at 22 percent.
Another factor in the increasing median age is a drop in the numbers of city youth. While the percentage of residents age 9 and younger gained slightly in the last 10 years (11.7 percent to 12 percent of total population), ages 10 to 19 saw a precipitous drop, from 2,053 (15.2 percent of total population) to 1,583 (12 percent of population).
Those aged 25 to 39 also dropped slightly from 2,319 (17.2 percent) in 2000 to 2,185 (15.6 percent) in 2010.