Needed Locally: Bridges Between the Generations
As I skim through a recent issue of The Pilot, I struggle to recognize myself.
The Scene section has two types of "events" photos. One is a group of photos from a school, with kids advocating saving pets.
There is also a photo of kids reading books. At the other end of the generational spectrum are pictures of groups near retirement age, making flowers, painting or golfing.
Me, I don't really fit in either group. Yet with parents near retirement and kids in West Pine Elementary, I bridge both.
My family life is full of a mixing of these two age groups, the young and the old. But here in Pinehurst, all of my retired neighbors seem to be far away from their grandkids, while all of my children's schoolmates seem to have grandparents in faraway states. The two groups that are actually here rarely mingle.
It left me wondering: What kind of town did I move to? What are its demographics?
Being a financial news editor, I often turn to numbers for answers. To better understand my new town, I pointed my Internet browser to a wonderful set of numbers from government
The American decennial census has been collecting data since 1790. The most recent measurement of the population was taken in 2010, the first year it recorded a national population exceeding 300 million.
Census data is, as my 7-year-old says, "awesome-ful" in its scope and information.
Diving deep into the demographics of Pinehurst, I learned a few things. Pinehurst has always been seen as a sleepy retirement community. In 2010, the average age was 60, and those over 65 made up 42 percent of the town. That exceeds 13 percent for the state of North Carolina.
At the same time, those under 18 were only about 12 percent of the population, half the state average of around 24 percent.
But things have been changing. The growth of the hospital and Fort Bragg have brought a new set of people to town.
The village's population increased 35 percent in the past decade.
Those over 65 lagged that growth, expanding only about 20 percent, while those under 18 more than doubled, to 2,100. That's still less than half the retired crowd of 4,900, but it is a significant shift from 10 years earlier, when the number of kids was just a quarter that of the retired.
That surge in the under-18 crowd tells me a lot about this town. It helps explain the generational shift I am seeing. And I wonder: How can we better merge these two wonderful age groups?
Those recently retired have a world of knowledge and skill from which the children would benefit. Pinehurst is so special to have such a varied and vibrant group of people with rich life experience. It would be a shame to miss the opportunity for them to share their wisdom with those just starting out.
And maybe that is my role as someone who bridges the two ends of the age spectrum - to help suggest that they somehow collide. I wonder if the established clubs in town might open their doors to the children.
There are a few clubs I would have easily joined if they appeared more welcoming to kids and families. I didn't because either kids weren't included or they didn't hold any events outside of normal working hours. (Yes, sadly, I still have a full-time job to tend to.) I would have totally joined the Newcomers Club, the painting club and the photography club. And I know my girls would love to learn how to paint and take pictures from some experienced folks.
These are personal examples of what I would like. I'm sure there are others. I can imagine that kids interested in geography and history would be mesmerized to hear stories from our veterans in town. Similarly, kids interested in building things would want to learn from our experienced engineers. You get the idea.
Heck, if I had the money I would buy one of the vacant buildings downtown and turn it into an events center for all ages. But that is a bit out of my reach. Perhaps we can begin more modestly.
I would ask all members of all clubs to think about their organization and explore ways to include the fastest-growing segment of our population.
Let's find a way to help the young benefit from one of our richest resources, the experience of their elders.
It's time to start mixing it up a little!
Marybeth Sandell recently moved to Pinehurst from Sweden with her husband and two daughters.
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