Idyllwild’s 2010 census data frightens me. Not the aging population, that was expected.
In fact, Idyllwild has been home to a larger percent of elderly (65 years or older) since 2000. After that census, 18 percent of Idyllwild exceeded the normal retirement age, but only 12.4 percent of the nation.
Ten years later, the gray, not graying, cadre is now 13 percent of the national population and more than 21 percent locally. Pretty soon, I’ll be able to augment this group’s size, but not yet.
No, what frightened me was the dramatic drop in the 35 to 49 years old group. In Idyllwild, there are fewer people (300) now than a decade ago. More than a third of that cohort has left.
I have no idea of the reason and wonder and worry about what precipitated this change.
While these folks may not be the core of the family-producing population, this is where local leadership and income generation is anchored. In 2000, this group represented nearly a quarter of the local population. Now it’s only a sixth.
Is this a sign that jobs are scarce here? Is it a sign of deteriorating family structures? Why did they leave? Usually migration out is an indication of difficult economic conditions.
Notice how frequently we do a business change story now. It’s almost monthly and approaching weekly. New businesses and shops open, but they are replacing former ones. Remember when there were more galleries?
But younger populations such as the 20 years to 34 years actually grew. There were about 370 family-age adults here in 2000. Last year, the Census counted 486, nearly 32 percent more.
This reinforces the small growth in the under 18 population. They increased from 711 kids in 2000 to 741 in 2010.
But we shouldn’t be surprised by these numbers. We have seen the Idyllwild School enrollment fall for several years during this decade.
This demographic data raises a question which we, as a community, ought to reflect upon. For example, as the population does age, can we embrace and comfort them.
Yes, the Idyllwild Recreation program is devoting more resources to this constituency, but I wonder if basic needs and health services are sufficient or will be adequate. Meals On Wheels has vanished.
All of us know friends and family who have moved away because of age and the need to be closer to health care.
Nevertheless this subgroup is expanding. The question is whether we have the ability to provide these services? Is one health clinic sufficient or can we relax knowing Idyllwild Fire has three ambulances for transportation to Hemet or Palm Desert?
Then remind yourself about the August vote on Idyllwild Fire’s assessment increase — Measure G. Why did it fail? And is that a precursor of future local funding issues?
Can the community support a larger fire department, building a community center, and water districts if its citizenry survives on fixed incomes?
This is the danger of the evaporating middle age cadre. This is the time in life when many people’s incomes are growing and they can then afford more than the personal basics.
Is Idyllwild a microcosm of the country or the state? Should we all begin to prepare personal bunkers?
Or will the tradition of local volunteerism manifest itself and support these ideas and services?