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SF Median Age Tops State’s, Nation’s

SANTA FE, N.M. — Santa Fe is getting older – and not just because it recently passed its 400th birthday.

Recently released 2010 federal census data shows that Santa Fe’s median age is much higher than that of the country or New Mexico as a whole. And the percentage of the city population over 62 went up significantly in the past 10 years – well over one in five Santa Feans now is in that age group.

Santa Fe’s median age is 44, the U.S. Census Bureau reports. That’s up from about 40 in the 2000 census.

While America’s population is aging overall as Baby Boomers hit retirement age, Santa Fe is getting older faster than the rest of the nation. The median age nationally is 37.2, up from 35.3 in 2000.

The median age in New Mexico is 36.7, compared to 34.6 a decade ago.

A median isn’t an average – there are as many people above as below the median number.

Officials at the Santa Fe office of AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired People, cited several reasons for the upward trend in the City Different’s age numbers beyond national norms.

“I think you have some older, longtime families that stay and don’t migrate elsewhere,” said AARP state director Stan Cooper. “Santa Fe has got a population that’s been based here for centuries.”

Gene Varela, AARP’s associate state director, cited two other factors: Many people move to Santa Fe to retire, and, on the other end of the age spectrum, a lack of jobs outside government or tourism pushes young people to look elsewhere for work.

“They tend to leave, and that contributes to the aging of Santa Fe,” Varela said.

In 2000, 20 percent of the Santa Fe population, or 12,407 residents, were from 20 to 34 years old. That segment has dropped to 12,029 people, or 17.6 percent of the population, in the 2010 census.

Verala also noted that families these days are smaller, with fewer households with four or more children. “It’s the smaller size of the families,” he said – a factor in many communities, he noted.

The average household size in Santa Fe is now 2.1 people, down a bit from 2.2 people 10 years ago. The average family size also has stayed fairly constant – 2.85 people compared to 2.9 people in 2000, according to the census bureau. A household is different from a family in that people not related to each other could be living together.

Big jump at 62-plus

The segment of Santa Fe’s nearly 68,000 residents at age 62 or older jumped by nearly 5,000 people, to 15,145 residents, over the past 10 years -from 16.5 percent to 22.3 percent of the city population.

The percentage at 65 or older is now 17.6 percent, up from 13.9 percent.

On the other end of the age spectrum, the portion of the population at age 17 or below has dropped to 18.9 percent, from 20.3 percent in 2000.

Santa Fe households listed as families with children declined from 24.1 percent in 2000 to 20.6 percent in the new census. The number of households with people under 18 stayed about the same, roughly 7,400, but dropped as a percentage of all households, from 26.8 percent to 23.2 percent.

Husband-wife families actually grew by about 500, to 10,848 households, but with the other changes in the population make-up, that group’s portion of all households has dropped. Married couples are now are 34 percent of Santa Fe households, down from 37.6 percent 10 years ago.

The 2010 census report also says that 60.5 percent of housing units are owner-occupied and 39.5 percent are rentals.

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