Forty-four years after Columbia was first founded, it has grown into the second-largest community in Maryland, with people
In Part Three of Patch’s interview with Columbia Association President Phil Nelson, Nelson talked about how the association may adjust its recreational, cultural and community services as Columbia, itself, changes. Following is an edited excerpt:
Patch: What do you think of how Columbia is changing right now?
Nelson: “I think the biggest change is yet to come. One in five Marylanders, as well as one in five Americans in the next 25 years, is going to be over the age of 65.
“There are [also] natural resources that are going to create a different type of development. People talk about $5 and $6 a gallon gasoline. If that takes place, the whole idea of suburbs and everything else is going to have to be rethought. People start looking at different types of housing.
“In the next 25 years, 50 percent of the population is going to range from 36 to 84 years old. And baby boomers and millennials, neither group wants to own property. They don’t want to spend all their time in the yard digging weeds and mowing.
“They would like to see more of a social interactive type setting where you can go from your 20th floor condo down to eat dinner and then back up to work and do your work by telecommuting or whatever.
“Things are going to change so much, I think, in the future that people are going to have to look at different modes of transit, different forms of housing, how it affects CA when one in five Columbians are going to be over 65 years old. Are we offering the right services?
“At the other end of the spectrum, those that are born from 1977 to 1994 are also going to be 25 percent of the population.”
Patch: When you talk about offering the right services, have you already started looking for the answer?
Nelson: “We as a staff are starting to look at how we turn the ship. Do we maintain the same fitness center concepts we have now, or do we go to smaller storefronts where the population centers are?
“We’re still going to need hike and bike pathway systems, because people are still going to want to exercise. They’re still going to want to get out in nature. I just want to make sure we’re still looking in the future to find out what people want, what the changes are.
“Right now the population of senior citizens, they like group activities. They like to go where their friends are. The Baby Boom Generation now, the first phase is hitting 61, 62, 63 years old. They want smaller activities. They don’t want group activities. They want more active activities.…
“We have to make sure that we’re meeting our residents’ needs as to providing services, providing facilities and making sure that we maintain a concept that’s worked that probably will have to change.”
Patch: Is there a timetable? What is the process?
Nelson: “This is going to be gradual, because we want to start before it actually hits. We want to be in a position to act rather than react. And instead of waiting until we’ve got an age cohort that needs different services and start going toward providing those services but forgetting the others, we need to make sure that we’re offering that type of service that a 65-year-old can use and a 14-year-old can use.”
Patch: How do you figure out what people want?
Nelson: “We’ll do focus group settings. We’ll do surveys. We’ll do all kinds of different things to find out what people are looking for. It’s not just for today, but what they could want in the future.”
This is the third in a three-part series. , Nelson discussed the redevelopment of downtown Columbia and Columbia Association’s role in the process. , Nelson talked about the village center concept and whether it is fundamentally changing. Columbia Association offers recreational, cultural and community services and facilities.