Planners See Challenges as Shore Population
earliest published version of this story misspelled the name of the
Talbot County director of permits and inspections. His name is Dan
Capital News Service
Friday, Nov. 5, 2004
WASHINGTON - Attracted by waterfront property, a temperate climate and a
relaxed environment, older workers and retirees are flocking to Talbot County,
making it the oldest county in the state with a median age of 43.8 years in
But Talbot is not alone, according to an analysis of the Census Bureau's most
recent population estimates. Much of the Eastern Shore, a region called
"Grayshore" by one expert, is experiencing the same trend.
That trend will result in serious problems if the region does not do
something about it now, said Memo Diriker, director of BEACON -- Salisbury
University's Business, Economic and Community Outreach Network.
"We are not yet prepared for what aging is going to mean for the shore," said
Diriker, who coined the term "Grayshore." "Right now, it's not a crisis, but
it's trending towards that direction."
The four oldest jurisdictions in the state were all on the Eastern Shore.
After Talbot came Worcester County, with a median age of 42.9 years; Kent
County, with a median age of 41.5; and Dorchester County, at 41.2 years.
No other county in the state had a median age above 40 years. The statewide
median age in 2003 was 36.7 years.
Diriker said that increase on the shore is being driven by three factors: the
aging of the resident population, an influx of older newcomers and the
continuing exodus of younger residents. Unless the region plans for it, he said,
those trends will lead to a future shortage of senior services, and workers to
"I see in this the makings of a plane crash or a train wreck," Diriker said.
County planners agree. Karen Houtman, assistant director for Dorchester
County's planning and zoning office, said that she sees a need to increase
medical and support services in order to accommodate the future senior boom.
"To me it's a concern . . . because we're going to need services for them
that we don't have right now," Houtman said. "We don't have many doctors in the
area. I think that's something that we need to consider and encourage."
Carla Martin, a community planner for Kent County, said it is important to
have a "balanced population" as the county tries to anticipate the need for
"While the older residents don't need schools, they need paramedics, they
need medical services, they need support services that are traditionally held by
younger residents," she said.
Talbot County officials said one way to balance populations is to address
some of the problems that are driving young people out, including a lack of jobs
and affordable homes.
"Our economic base is not attractive to young professionals," said George
Kinney, Talbot County's planning director for future projections. "To attract
and retain younger folks, we're going to need to put together a package of
affordable housing, jobs and better commutes to those jobs."
Unless that happens, Kinney said, more than a third of the county's
population will be 65 or older by 2030, a projection he hopes will change once
the county brings in more businesses in need of younger workers.
The 65-and-older population in the Lower Shore is expected to grow 75 percent
by 2030, when that group will make up roughly a quarter of all residents of the
region, according to the Maryland Department of Planning.
But until then, the region's older population will continue to reap the
benefits of a lifestyle that seems tailor-made for them, said Dan Cowee, Talbot
County's director of permits and inspections.
"You're in a very rural land of pleasant living," he said. "It's very
low-key, it's very easygoing and you're not dealing with the stress of the
larger metro area, but you have the benefits of it within an hour's drive."
2001, 2002, 2003
and 2004 University of Maryland
Philip Merrill College of
Top of Page