The median age of San Mateo County residents is three years older than it was in 2000, contributing to a shift local leaders said will eventually strain funds for services such as health care and change the way the officials plan for housing and other topics.
The county’s 706,984 residents have a median age of 40, up from 2000 when the median age was roughly 37, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Wednesday. The median age has increased steadily each year since 2000, with more than 93,000 residents now older than 65, according to the census data.
The aging population is the result of a huge wave of baby boomers mixed with declining fertility rates, said Steve Levy, director of Palo Alto-based Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy. Additionally, the median age will rise each year as the baby boomers retire in full force, said Sara Mayer, the county’s director of health policy and planning. “baby boomer” refers to a person who was born between the mid-1940s and the early 1960s.
The shift will require long-term planning and county health officials are preparing for 2020-30, Mayer said. The baby boomers population is different than past senior demographics, as they will stay employed longer and prefer housing near public transit, younger people and active areas, county Health Services Manager Marsha Fong said.
“Senior centers may not be the way to go for them,” Fong said.
Also, since the baby boomer generation will be the biggest group of retirees ever, they will require more Medicare and Social Security services, Mayer said. Declining property and sales-tax money is also a concern, as fewer homes will be sold and shops will not be patronized as much because older people tend to spend less, she said.
On the other hand, as baby boomers retire, skilled young professionals will be more in demand to fill the jobs held by that huge class of workers holding prominent positions in the work force, Levy said.
The Asian population is also booming in San Mateo County, as community leaders said immigrants are crossing the Pacific Ocean and moving away from nearby cities.
The county’s Asian population has increased every year since 2000, and has ballooned more than 17 percent since that time, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Wednesday. Asians have continued to flood the county while the white population, which makes up the vast majority of its residents, has decreased about 4½ percent since 2000. The third most common race in the county, black, has also dropped about 6½ percent since 2000.
Longtime Millbrae resident Arnold Lee, acting president of the San Francisco Chinatown group the Six Companies, said immigrants are leaving China, Taiwan and other parts of Asia and coming here for better education, more freedom and the nice weather.
Because adults in Asia are making more money than they used to, they can more easily afford to send their children to the United States, Lee said.
Marian Kong, who helped organize this year’s massive Lunar New Year celebration in Millbrae and other local Asian community events, said second-generation Asian-Americans are moving from Chinatown and other areas to be closer to the Silicon Valley for high-tech jobs.
Also, Kong said, many Asians prefer the suburban lifestyle offered in San Mateo County, as opposed to the city lifestyle they could experience in neighboring San Jose and San Francisco. — Mike Rosenberg