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ORLANDO (CBS4) — Working-age adults made up Florida’s fastest-growing age group in the past decade, according to census data released Thursday, helping push the Sunshine State down several rungs in the ranking of states with the nation’s oldest population.

The figures show that residents ages 18 to 64 propelled Florida’s growth in boom counties on the periphery of major metro areas — places such as Osceola County outside Orlando, St. Johns and Flagler counties near Jacksonville and Pasco County outside St. Petersburg — at least until the boom ended in a housing bust at the end of the decade.

At the same time, traditional retiree havens such as Broward and Pinellas counties lost seniors and gained working-age adults. Gulf Coast counties with large numbers of retirees, such as Hernando and Pasco counties, saw their concentration of seniors diluted with the arrival of younger residents.

“There have been a lot more young people moving in,” said Jeff Johnson, AARP Florida interim state director. “Some of the big Broward condos, which are sort of stereotypical of Broward County, a lot of those condos have had a pretty good piece of turnover in the last 10 years. There are a lot of people who are younger who are living in places that before you would have expected not to see anybody under the age of 75.”

From 2000 to 2010, working-age residents grew by more than a fifth, while Florida’s seniors, 65 years and older, grew by only a sixth. Floridians under age 18 rose by less than a tenth.

The influx of working-age adults helped push Florida down the rankings of states with the oldest population. Florida now has the fifth-highest median age, 40.7, trailing Maine, Vermont, West Virginia and New Hampshire. It had the second-highest a decade ago, and two decades ago it had the highest median age.

Monroe County, home to the Florida Keys, was Florida’s only county that lost working-age adults. It also had about a fifth fewer residents under the age of 18 than it did a decade ago, but it gained in senior residents.

Traditional retiree havens such as Broward County, home to Fort Lauderdale, and Pinellas County, home to St. Petersburg, even lost seniors during the decade. The working-age population rose in Broward County, known for its “condo canyons” of retirees, as it did in Pinellas County, whose retiree population was given the Hollywood treatment in the 1985 movie “Cocoon.”

Florida’s seniors flocked to new retiree destinations in the state, such as The Villages in Sumter County, north of Orlando, and new golf communities in northeast Florida near Jacksonville.

Richard and Catherine Conti owned a condo in Boca Raton that they used for vacations away from their home in Rhode Island. But when they wanted to retire full time in 2001, they decided to live in The Villages. They were lured by the chance to play nonstop golf, but they also found that the dollar went a lot further in central Florida than it did in South Florida.

“It’s more expensive there than here,” said Catherine Conti, 70. “I didn’t want to go into debt or anything. I wanted to have a nice retirement.”

For female retirees in Florida, the dating pool improved over the past decade. The average number of males for every 100 females over age 65 in Florida went from 76.5 to 80.2.


(© 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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