An Aging Columbia Population Prompts Leaders to Look Ahead

The prospects for the future of Columbia were laid out in a plan Columbia Association president Phil Nelson presented to CA's board of directors.


Columbia Association plans to invest more than $105 million in capital projects over the next 15 years, but with an aging population, the question of where to direct resources is on CA president Phil Nelson's mind.

Nelson that the purpose of developing a master plan for capital projects is to make sure CA provides for the changing wants and needs of its customers and investors.

Nelson noted census figures in his board presentation notes—the population of 25-to-34-year-olds in the city has decreased from 20.8 percent to 14.7 percent of the total population in the past 20 years.

Meanwhile, the population of those 65 to 74 years of age has increased from 2.7 percent to 6.7 percent, an increase that is predicted to continue over the next 30 years, according to Nelson.

Do you think Columbia should do more to cater to the growing population of those 65 to 74 years of age? Tell us in comments.

Nelson said in a recent presentation to the CA board that the increase in elderly residents could cause CA to cut back on children's programming in favor of programming for seniors, according to an article in Explore Howard.

"Do we offer all of the kid space? Do we offer all of the swimming pools? Or do we change to say, 'What do these age groups want to see? What would they like us to offer?' " Nelson said, according to the article.

Nelson wrote the primary focus for new residential construction in Columbia over the next two decades is 5,500 new units planned for downtown.

Downtown Columbia is also in the .

Howard Hughes recently announced a new to be built at the former Rouse Company Headquarters.

In May, developers provided a comprehensive look at the , which will soon add 380 new residential units and retail space on a lot adjoining the Mall in Columbia.

In addition, plans to redevelop and are quickly taking shape.

The expected population increase is between 16,000 and 18,000 over the next 20 to 25 years, Nelson wrote. Columbia's population as of the 2010 census was 99,615.

Nelson asked the board: "How does CA let residents and customers know that change is inevitable, and instead of concentrating on what residents and customers could lose through changes, focus on how changes could continue to add value to life and property?"

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b.santos August 16, 2012 at 07:45 PM
The Columbia Association should always strive to provide inclusive activities for all Columbia residents. To explicitly state that providing services for one group must come at the expense of another is wrong from the start. Given that very few of CA's senior management and Board of Directors actually have Howard County school age children in their houses, this looks like an uphill battle.
Turtle Beoulve August 16, 2012 at 08:49 PM
If Columbia loses focus on family activities, it will be the death of this area. They need to attract more families, not reduce services.
Duane St. Clair August 17, 2012 at 02:14 PM
CA is right to look at the impact of the graying of Columbia. We dropped our CA membership when our kids left home like a lot of other families who raised our families in the 1970's through the 1990's. While CA will always need to have a strong program for families with children they should get ahead of the curve and develop a plan component that is aimed the interest of the aging baby boomer residents.
b.santos August 17, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Duane, to your point about a strong program for families: CA explicitly states that the youth population will remain stable over the next few decades, but also implies that it will target reduction in services to this component of the population to serve a projected increase of the aged. That is wrong. If you want more programs, you need to find a way to pay for them, not take from those who have no vote. I am sorry to hear that you find CA membership lacking. I can assure you that the water in the shallow end of the pool is still 3 feet and the water just as inviting as when you left so many years ago. The athletic facilities have increased the number and diversity of programs for many different age groups. Even the free offerings have diversified to include a variety of tastes. I suggest that your decade plus absence from CA membership may have you a little less informed as to how the organization serves many different demographic groups (or am I missing something). At the base level, Columbia was built at a time to serve a particular component of the population, and the boomer generation heartily embraced it (for a while). What you seem to suggest is that Columbia should reinvent itself for that one generation. Keep in mind that boomers are in a decline which will only accelerate over time. This carries neither good nor bad connotations, it is only a fact. So I would caution against chasing a diminishing cohort and instead look toward those in ascendance.
Katie Sorota August 20, 2012 at 03:35 PM
I completely agree! Even the over 65 set wants to see young people, children and families around. This is a completely paralyzing direction!
Mac October 23, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Last 5 years property value is down significatly. If and when the property value goes up the age group may change also. Just a thought.


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