Rural areas to feel strain as SD population graysSIOUX FALLS (AP) — The population in South Dakota's rural areas will age more rapidly in coming years as more baby boomers enter retirement and more young people migrate to urban areas, South Dakota's state demographer says.
SIOUX FALLS (AP) — The population in South Dakota's rural areas will age more rapidly in coming years as more baby boomers enter retirement and more young people migrate to urban areas, South Dakota's state demographer says.
The trends have implications for elder care, transportation needs and rural economies, Mike McCurry said.
"The projections show a future with higher proportions of elderly people, specifically elderly women, than ever before," he told the media newspaper.
McCurry's eight-month study was coordinated by the governor's office and funded by the state Labor Department. Results are being provided to state lawmakers.
McCurry calculated the "dependency ratio" of each South Dakota county — the ratio of working-age people to those younger than 14 and older than 65. A dependency ratio of 50, in which there are two working-age adults for every dependent, is considered balanced.
"A dependency ratio of 100, in which there is one working-age person for each dependent, is a community under strain," McCurry said.
In 2010, the state's overall dependency ratio was 54. That number is projected to rise to 73 by 2035.
McPherson County, where the median age in 2010 was 50 — highest in the state — also had the highest dependency ratio, at 90. County Commissioner Delmar Metzger, an ambulance driver, said it is becoming more difficult to find volunteers for the ambulance service.
"And with all the older people, there are more and more calls," he said.
No counties had a dependency ratio of more than 100 in 2010; the projection is that by 2035, 15 of them will.
"This is a huge problem for South Dakota when we look at what's happening to our population," said Dennis Eisnach, state president of the AARP. "A lot of the elderly people are still part of our agricultural community. Their father or grandfather probably homesteaded on the land. They want to stay on the land."
Ona Ingalls, 73, of Lake Andes, said it is difficult for young people to stick around. There are county jobs in Lake Andes and medical jobs at the hospital in Wagner, but the farms nearby don't need the help they once did. The remaining jobs are low-pay, low-benefit service jobs around which it's difficult to build a life for a family.
"Our young people want to work, but there's not enough to do," Ingalls said.