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NNY population is getting older


The north country is a little older and slightly more diverse than it was a decade ago.

The aging trend was evident in past census enumerations, but continues as the Baby Boomer generation grows older, the 2010 Census data released Wednesday showed.

"We know the population is continuing to age, particularly in the north country," Lewis County planner Renee J. Beyer said.

Because of that trend, local officials are becoming more mindful of accommodating and caring for an older population, Mrs. Beyer said. For example, a land-use planning workshop later this month at Jefferson Community College will feature the associate state director of AARP, she said.

Lewis County showed the most aging, with a median age — the one at which half the population is older and half is younger — that rose from 36.8 in 2000 to 40.2 in 2010. St. Lawrence County's median age increased from 35.4 in 2000 to 37.5 in 2010.

"I think the sad truth is it reflects that young people are moving away because they can't get jobs," Public Health Director Susan J. Hathaway said. "That really is the problem that so much of upstate New York faces. It's a big challenge for St. Lawrence County."

The lack of opportunities also affects the county's ability to attract the younger health care professionals necessary to care for an aging population, because they usually come with spouses who also want employment.

"Distances are long and there's a lot of poverty," Ms. Hathaway said.

Jefferson County, which had the second-lowest median age in the state, also rose from 32.5 to 32.6.

"Certainly, the Fort Drum population assists with the number of younger folks in the community, both the age of soldiers themselves and the family members," Jefferson County Planning Department Director Donald R. Canfield said.

Tompkins County, home of Cornell University, Ithaca, and Ithaca College, was the youngest county in the state, with a median age of 29.8. Hamilton County had the highest median age, at 51.3. The statewide median age is 38.

The oldest towns in the north country are Osceola, with a median age of 48.8; Colton, with a median age of 47.7, and Henderson, where the population has a median age of 47.

The youngest places are the village of Canton, with a median age of 21.8, Potsdam, with 21.4, and Fort Drum, with 22.5.

The number of very young people also grew over the last decade.

In St. Lawrence County, the number of children under age 5 in the 2010 census was 6,574, compared with 6,065 in 2000.

"There was a big push to do a more thorough count of the Amish," said Jason C. Pfotenhauer, deputy director of the St. Lawrence County Planning Office. "That probably didn't account for the entire bump. It certainly had an impact."

In Jefferson County, the youngest age group — those up to 5 years old, increased from 8,199 to 9,635 in the last decade. In Lewis County, the youngest group also grew, from 1,643 to 1,776.

Those in the oldest age group — 85 and older — increased in Jefferson County from 1,622 to 1,888, in Lewis County from 454 to 544 and in St. Lawrence County from 1,774 to 1,965. But the next-oldest group — 75 to 84 — showed mixed results, with a decrease from 4,473 to 4,231 in Jefferson, a rise from 1,180 to 1,436 in Lewis, and a rise from 4,829 to 5,204 in St. Lawrence.

While 97.7 percent of Lewis County residents are white, census statistics indicate that the county's modest gain in populace was directly attributable to its Hispanic and Latino population, which more than doubled from 2000 to 2010.

Lewis County's population over that 10-year period increased by 143 residents, from 26,944 to 27,087. Meanwhile, the number of Hispanics and Latinos grew by 185, from 172 to 357.

Those figures likely reflect an increased use of immigrant workers at local farms, Mrs. Beyer said.

Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties also showed an increase in those of Hispanic or Latino descent, from 4,677 to 6,143 and from 2,008 to 2,146, respectively.

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