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Utah Faces Steep Rise in Aging Population

A glimpse into Utah’s future has retirees making up a bigger portion of the population – much bigger – as Utah’s population nearly doubles in the next half-century. And that trend is going to have a big impact on today’s children.

New research from the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute confirms that Utah is aging like the rest of the nation.

“The age structure of Utah is changing in a fundamental way,” says Pam Perlich, who oversees demographics at the Institute. She says children will make up a declining share of the population over the next few decades.

“And it’s the elder share of the population that’s expanding so rapidly and including the very elderly -- we’re talking centenarians.”

That’s about twenty times as many Utahns over age 100 in half a century as there are today. And the share of Utahns age 65 and older will double between now and then.

The state Legislature requested the latest demographic report to help plan for Utah’s future. Perlich says the projections like these can help inform important decisions, like how to prepare for times ahead when relatively fewer working-age Utahns are supporting those who are very young and very old.

“It really calls on us to rethink all kinds of age-based ideas that we have about how we allocate resources,” she says.

Perlich says the data will help with contemporary policy decisions on housing and how much to spend on educating the workers of tomorrow.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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