Stay away from me, baby

Politics and other mistakes
By AL DIAMON  |  November 14, 2007

Imagine a Maine in which almost everybody is over the age of 40.

School consolidation? We could go back to one-room school houses. And make the little brats walk 10 miles through the snow to get there.

Welfare? Most recipients are young. Dispose of them, and we could cut the budget by over 50 percent.

Global warming? Who cares? We won’t live long enough to see it.

Democratic congressional candidate Ethan Strimling? Don’t let the toll gate bump you in the butt on your way out of state, ambition boy.

Yep, it sounds like someplace pretty close to paradise. While an aging Maine might suffer a shortage of fast-food clerks, ski-lift operators, and people who actually know how to make your computer work, it would benefit from better music on the radio, replacing the CW with Matlock re-runs and a return to traditional forms of graffiti (“Beer Equals God”). And I’d never have to read another embarrassingly hip news release from the Portland chapter of the League of Young Voters (formerly named something ultra-cool, like the League of Urine-Depleted Voters).

For a while, it looked as if Maine might actually achieve this graying goal. According to the US Census, the state’s population of young children declined almost 10 percent between 2000 and 2005, and Maine was on track to lead the nation in having the lowest percentage of residents under 18 by 2010. The median age rose from 38.6 in 2000 to 41.2 in 2005, making us the oldest state in the US. The population of senior citizens in the affluent suburbs of southern Maine was increasing by more than 20 percent each decade.

Wrinklies rule. Pull up them saggy pants, punks, and quit fiddlin’ with those digital doohickeys. Shape up, or you’ll find out these canes are good for something besides keeping us upright.

Now, what was I talking about?

Oh, yeah, I remember, aging population and all.

It appeared as if everything was going our way, demographic-wise, when all of a sudden, the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire (motto: Live Free, But Pay Back Your Student Loans Until You Die) released this report that seemed to indicate the trend had reversed itself. According to Carsey, between 2004 and 2006, Maine gained about 6000 people in the dreaded — and sometimes dreadlocked — 25-to-34 age bracket.

As kids today are so fond of saying: Whatever.

The UNH researchers admitted this wasn’t that big a deal. In the 1990s, nearly one quarter of all young people left Maine for greener pastures. Although, being young urban professionals, they probably had some less rural term for it. Between 2000 and 2004, New England lost over 8 percent of its youthful population, and that exodus is continuing in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The mini-boom in boomers’ kids moving back to Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont could be a fluke. So, don’t go stocking up on hip-hop records just yet.

What? They use something called an MP3 now? Isn’t that the place James Bond worked?

This tiny turnaround wouldn’t be particularly troubling if it didn’t come with a potential cost. Not only are these prodigal sons and daughters going to vote for Ethan Strimling and make us wipe our carbon footprints off the carpet every time we drive the SUV one block to the liquor store, some of them will also have their hands out for a tax break — one we might not be able to afford.

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