This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

The Grandparents Are in the Countryside--English Version

This is an emotional weekend, in that my oldest grandson is settling into his first year of college at the University of York in England. He's about a 12 hour plane ride from us, but only about an hour train ride from his English grandparents. And that is not in the direction of London. We were just in London for a workshop at the London School of Economics on health and mortality inequalities, and over the years it has seemed to my wife and I that the average person in London has increasingly become relatively young and relatively new to the English language. An article in the British version of today's Economist helps to explain why: the older population in England is taking over the countryside--and that turns out to be a good thing for the countryside, if not for London.
In London, pricey properties and thriving high streets appear wherever young hipsters go; in the rest of Britain, pensioners often blaze the trail. Coastal towns, increasingly dominated not just by the over-60s but by the over-70s, saw a 128% rise in property prices between 2001 and 2011, above the British average uptick of 119%. Where the old have moved inland, to cathedral cities like Lichfield, high house prices have followed. Ray Nottage, head of Christchurch council, has no intention of chasing yuppies. When it comes to the local economy, he says, “we’re much more sophisticated than that”.

Nationally, an ageing population is a problem. But locally it can be a boon. The over-50s control 80% of Britain’s wealth, and like to spend it on houses and high-street shopping. The young “generation rent”, by contrast, is poor, distractible and liable to shop online.

Meanwhile, with the over-50s holding the purse strings, the towns that draw them are likely to grow more and more pleasant. The lord mayor of Manchester, Sue Cooley, notes that decent restaurants and nice shops spring up in the favoured haunts of the old, just as they do in the trendy, revamped boroughs of London. Latimer House, a Christchurch furniture store full of retro clothing and 1940s music, would not look out of place in Hackney. Improved high streets then entice customers of all ages.
So, next time I or some other demographer notes that aging can be a societal problem, remember that it's not all bad--as long as the older population has a little money to spend...

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