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Pinellas grows a tad older, census shows

The county's median age has risen to 43, compared to 42.1 in 1990. Still, a dozen communities got younger.


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 23, 2001

The county's median age has risen to 43, compared to 42.1 in 1990. Still, a dozen communities got younger.

Chris Arbutine remembers growing up in Belleair Bluffs with only six or seven kids his age in the entire 1.5-square-mile city.

Today, there are dozens of kids and teenagers in the beachside community; playmates of Arbutine's son now flock to his house in groups of six or eight. Arbutine is the mayor, and he's only 35.

"Yes, we've definitely seen the town get younger," Arbutine said. With the exception of teens ages 15 to 19, the city has more residents from birth to 59 years old than it did at the time of the 1990 Census.

In fact, the median age in Belleair Bluffs has dropped from 67.2 to 59.6, according to figures released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. It was one of a dozen places in Pinellas County that saw its median age actually fall during the past decade.

As a whole, though, the county has gotten slightly older with a median age of 43, compared to 42.1 in 1990. All of the age groups, except for residents in their early 20s, increased. The census figures showed that there are more octogenarians, which grew 102 percent.

Of all the cities in Pinellas, Belleair Bluffs had the most significant decrease in median age, or the age at which half the population is older and half is younger.

"It's a great place to raise kids, and I think people are actually realizing that. The draw is Belleair Bluffs is your typical small town. It's everything you've always wanted in a town, but it's modern," Arbutine said.

Bay Pines, an area near Seminole that the Census Bureau keeps data for separately, had the sharpest drop in its median age, going from 59.5 in 1990 to 50.4 in 2000.

Indian Rocks Beach is the city that aged the most, according to the census figures. The median age went up from 41.3 to 48.

It's kind of a natural progression, said Katherine Burbridge, the Indian Rocks community development director.

"You have all these baby boomers . . . and they're older," she said.

Brian Smith, the county's planning director, also said Indian Rocks Beach has more affordable housing. "The economics are a little bit different there. People could go and find it more affordable than they could other parts."

St. Petersburg is one of the cities that, like the county, got older. The city's median age is 39.3, which is 1.8 percent higher than the 38.6 median age in 1990.

"That's still a surprise," said planning director David Goodwin. Between 1980 and 1990, the city had a drastic drop in age, a celebratory showing for the city trying to shake its elderly image. Some had expected there to be another decline in 2000.

But Goodwin said cities often experience cycles. Even when young families with children move in, the statistics eventually will show an increase in age if those families stay, especially if their children grow up and leave.

"So then you have the phenomenon of families with older kids or empty-nesters," Goodwin said. The city has not gotten older because there are more senior citizens. The statistics show that St. Petersburg has lost residents who are 60 and older by double-digit percentages.

Clearwater dropped slightly in age, seeing an increase in the 20- to 24-year-old age group. Many other Pinellas areas saw a drop in that category. "I think we are attractive for the young and kind of middle-aged if you want to call it that. . . . We have a fairly significant amount of apartment complexes and condos which tend to attract a relatively younger population," said Clearwater planning director Ralph Stone.

Largo and Seminole either lost or saw only small increases in the number of 20-somethings. At the same time, both showed significant increases in the number of residents who were at least 85 years old.

Neighborly Senior Services recently opened an adult day services center in Largo, where senior citizens go each day to dance, sing, play bingo, balloon volleyball or Scrabble.

Largo got older, and Seminole got younger. Seminole's population had more babies and school-age children and fewer seniors up to 85 years old.

Seminole also showed a stronger increase in the number of 10- to 14-year-olds than Largo. The increase of middle school-age kids often repeated in other places around Pinellas County.

In St. Petersburg, for example, Goodwin said that group's population increase has shown up in sports programs.

"We're seeing more demand for youth sports facilities," Goodwin said.

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