Friday May 27 2011
Is Auburn getting older?
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
Local seniors say not much available for younger residents
With declining school enrollments, the expected close of a birthing center, two proposed senior communities and more seniors at Auburn’s Senior Center, is the community’s population getting older? Local officials and seniors have varying thoughts. Barbara Crowell, executive director of the Auburn Multipurpose Senior Center, said she isn’t sure what to make of the center’s growing number of users. “I think more of them are aware of the Senior Center now,” Crowell said. “When I first came here six-and-a-half years ago we only got 10,000 people here, and now we get about 16,000. More seniors are using the center, and I don’t know if that means there are more seniors in the community or if more seniors are (just) using the center. Other people discuss it too that there seems to be more seniors.” Crowell said seniors who attend range in age from 55 to 97 years old, although there are not as many in their 50s and 60s. According to the California Department of Finance Demographic Research Unit in 2000 the median age in the city of Auburn was 41.2 years old. In the 2010 census the median age for the city was reported at 45.4 years old. According to the 2000 census the median age in North Auburn was 41. The 2010 census reports that the 2010 median age in North Auburn was 42.5. The 2000 census reports that there were 3,398 people who were 55 years old and older in the city of Auburn. In 2010 that number grew to 4,644. For North Auburn the 2000 census reports that there were 3,559 people who were 55 years old and older. In 2010 that number grew to 4,312. This week residents voiced strong support and opposition for a proposed 400-plus residential senior community that would border the Placer-Nevada County line. Earlier this month, the Placer County Planning Commission OK’d an 858-unit senior community planned for North Auburn. Dave Horsey, superintendent for the Placer Union High School District, said Placer High School is a declining enrollment school, but only minimally. “We had done some projections over a 10-year span back in 2005,” Horsey said. “Placer, we had projected them at about 1,200 (students for this year), and they are at 1,368. And yet that is pretty comparable. We knew they would settle in that 1,200, 1,300 range.” Horsey said the number of students enrolled at the school has gone down recently. “It’s an awkward pitch when I put it to you that way because in 2009 and 2010 they were at 1,400 (students),” he said. “In 2010 we had them projected at 1,417. And even coming in at this year’s 1,368, it’s lower than it was this previous year, but higher than we had projected.” Horsey said he doesn’t know if the enrollment numbers mean an older population in Auburn. “It’s hard for me to make that assumption,” he said. “I think that as a high school district maybe, and this is just a maybe, it’s parents buying homes, and homes that are more expensive tend to have older children. So, the high school tends to hold its own a little bit more than the elementary school districts.” Auburn Union School District is a declining enrollment district, but Superintendent Michele Schuetz said administrators don’t know if that’s because of an older population. “We really never talked about (enrollment) declining because of age,” Schuetz said. “We know it’s a great place to retire. We have a lot of retirees. We still have young families here, we just see that each household is not materializing as many children as they used to. We know the birthrate is down, but is it because it’s an aging community … we wouldn’t really be able to comment on that.” Schuetz said the district had a theory for awhile that expensive home prices were making it hard for the average family to live in the area. Mitch Hanna, chief executive officer for Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital, said there has been a definite growth in the patient population of those 55 years old and older and he thinks the Auburn population is getting older as a whole. Declining birth rates and demographics that were showing older patients were considered closely when the decision to close the birthing center was made, Hanna said. “We have been looking at the demographics and this was not a hastily made decision,” Hanna said. “This happens to be healthcare, but it’s not unlike what we have seen in the schools.” Hanna said the hospital is seeing more demand for services that older patients require such as orthopedics, oncology and gastroenterology. Hanna said he also thinks the population is connected to home prices. “Housing prices in our area tend to be higher than down the hill in the Lincoln area, the Rocklin area, newer suburbs, which attract that younger population,” he said. Auburn resident Willy Guenot, who attends the Senior Center, said she thinks the overall population is older now than when she moved here 14 years ago. “There were more young people with little children than I see now,” Guenot said. “I think we don’t have a place to shop at is another thing.” Auburn resident Elfriede Tenorio, who was playing Bridge with Guenot Friday, said she thinks there is another reason younger people don’t seem to be settling in Auburn. “There is nowhere for young people to work for them to come up here,” Tenorio said. “I don’t think the opportunities for jobs are here.” Barbara Morris, who enjoys spending time relaxing at the Senior Center, said she hasn’t seen any real change in her apartment complex, which still seems to have a good representation of all age groups. “I have been 13 years or 14 years here in the Auburn Greens, and I haven’t seen any change in the Greens,” Morris said. Edith Wenzel, treasurer at the Senior Center, said she thinks the greater Auburn area is getting older in terms of population. “Of course we are, absolutely,” Wenzel said. “Because a lot of people are retiring. They are selling their homes and moving up here because it’s a slower pace.” Reach Bridget Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org