Thinking ahead |

Thinking ahead

Alex Miller

This year, the first of the Baby Boomers turn 60, a fact that will have enormous consequences for the entire country. In our little corner of the world, we’ve skewed toward a younger average population than many other regions, but that’s starting to change.Consider a few facts:n The senior population of Eagle County is projected to rise 50 percent in the next five years.n Medical technology is allowing people to live longer, and folks in their 60s, 70s and above are staying much more active than in previous generations. That means places like Eagle County become more attractive to retirees.n Vail Valley Medical Center continues to expand its services. With more comprehensive health care available, again, the county becomes more appealing to seniors.n Wealthy aging people who own vacation homes here are likely to convert to full-time residents. That’ll strain housing prices at the same time their presence will increase the demand for service workers. To be fair, these people also bring benefits, such as support of the arts, volunteerism and diverse backgrounds, not to mention adding to the sales and property tax base.To their credit, the county commissioners have started thinking about the effects of a growing, aging population. More funds have been steered toward senior services, and there’s even been talk of one day creating a full-fledged assisted-living facility. But more pressing is the affordable-housing aspect. While always an issue, the convergence of the factors mentioned above will make a bad situation worse.Senior citizens, by their nature, require more services than younger people do. Add a certain amount of affluence to that age and it’s easy to foresee the need for everything from more handymen, landscapers and snow removers to doctors, social service workers and leisure staff – golf pros, ski instructors and the like. That will create more jobs, sure, but also demand for more housing. As this happens, watch the populations of downvalley towns from Edwards to Eagle swell, accompanied by commensurate increases in I-70 traffic, home values, environmental impacts and a myriad other problems that come with more people.These aren’t abstract concerns but real issues backed by facts, and the time to start looking seriously at them has already passed. Not that we’re great fans of more layers of bureaucracy, but the towns and county might be well served by putting together some meetings to discuss these changes just over the horizon. Getting at least somewhat on the same page could nip some problems in the bud, avoid duplication of efforts and fits right in with one of the true callings of government: planning for the future.Vail, Colorado

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