Senior population in Alaska to triple by 2030

By Rob Stapleton
Anchorage, Alaska (AP) 11-07

State demographers say Alaska's population will likely surpass the
800,000 mark sometime between 2025 and 2030. The largest age group
will be seniors, they added.

Demographers Greg Williams and Eddie Hunsinger offered their
projections Nov. 1 to a packed crowd comprised of representatives of
state, local and tribal businesses.

Williams and Hunsinger admitted it's difficult to predict the future
population growth. But using a series of historical data and
generally accepted practices, they predict that the senior population
will more than triple, the combined Anchorage and Matanuska Valley
region will continue to grow and the Southeast region will continue
to decline.

Population figures show that the fastest-growing age group by the
year 2030 will be those in the 65 years old and older group. This
sector will triple, increasing from 45,391 in 2006 to 134,391 by 2030.

Anchorage and the Mat-Su are still the fastest growing areas in
Alaska, with a combined population in 2006 of 359,987. That will
likely grow to 488,553 by 2030.

Data is also showing that the Anchorage and Mat-Su areas, which now
house more than half the state's population, is steadily growing,
while Southeast Alaska's population is flat or in a slight decline.

Demographers also said that people from rural villages, most notably
young women, are moving to urban areas, especially to Anchorage, the
Mat-Su and Fairbanks. It's a trend that is likely to continue,
Hunsinger said.

Data is showing that women aged 20 to 25 years old are moving out of
rural villages and into urban areas, Williams said.

"They will probably take jobs in schools or at big box stores where
it will be easy for them to transition into the workforce," he said.

"The fastest growing area in Alaska is the Knik/Fairview Loop area,"
Williams said.

The Interior region - which includes Denali Borough, Fairbanks North
Star Borough, Southeast Fairbanks Census Area and Yukon-Koyukuk
Census areas - will show some moderate growth, primarily due to
defense missile contracting that will require construction and
infrastructure improvements, Hunsinger said.

This region will grow from today's population of 102,276 to 125,422
in 2030, a 22.6 percent increase in growth.

Southeast projections show a different outlook.

"Southeast will not grow," Hunsinger said. "Every region in Alaska is
growing with the exception of the communities there."

Southeast is comprised of Haines, Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Skagway,
Hoonah, Angoon, Wrangell Petersburg and Prince of Wales-Outer
Ketchikan Census areas, as well as the Yakutat Borough. This area is
showing a 7 percent decline in population.

"A lack of births and out-migration due to job losses in the timber
industry are the factors that we think are responsible for this drop
in population," Hunsinger said.

Southeast Region has a population of 70,053 today, and is predicted
to drop to 65,073 by 2030.

Projections show that in the future, rural residents likely will
continue to move to urban areas, especially to the Fairbanks, Mat-Su
and Anchorage regions, Williams said.

Williams added that while residents are worried that children between
the ages of 20 to 25 years old are not returning to Alaska after they
complete college, that sector of the population is being replaced
with young people moving into the state from Outside.

"This age group is looking for adventure and opportunity. We expect
to see more growth in this age group in the future," Williams said.

While it still costs a little more to live here than other places in
the Lower 48, those costs are driven by inflation and the cost of
energy, Williams said. A projected inflation of 3.2 percent in 2006
was driven by energy prices that rose 51 percent.

Information from: Alaska Journal of Commerce