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EDITORIAL: Fortunate to be aging well in Fredericksburg

EDITORIAL: Fortunate to be aging well in Fredericksburg

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PHOTO: Senior delivery

Debbie Zimmerman embraces Fredericksburg Police Officer Scott Worley after he delivered a Valentine's Day gift on Feb. 13, 2020.

ACCORDING to the last census taken in 2010, 10.6 percent of residents in Fredericksburg were over the age of 65. That percentage is likely to grow as American society as a whole continues to age.

As the number of senior citizens increases, the birth rate in the United States hit its lowest level in three decades last year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in May that American women are projected to have 1.71 children over their lifetimes, below the replacement rate (2.1). “The (total fertility) rate has generally been below replacement since 1971 and consistently below replacement since 2007,” according to the CDC.

This means that the fastest-growing demographic is senior citizens, whose numbers are projected to nearly double over the next four decades. This rising cohort will require changes in public policy and spending priorities. For example, there will undoubtedly be less demand for building schools and financing education, and more emphasis on health care and affordable housing in the coming years.

The goal of most retirees is to be able to gracefully age in place, enjoying their sunset years in a community that meets their physical, but also their emotional and cultural needs. Many senior citizens have to sell their homes and move to a new location in order to meet these objectives.

Fortunately for local residents, they’re already living in the perfect retirement community. According to national rankings of 300 cities by Caring.com, Fredericksburg is the second best place for seniors to live—not only in Virginia, but in the entire United States, placing second only behind San Francisco.

Only one other city in Virginia made the top 20 (Alexandria, at 18th overall), while Roanoke (71st), Richmond (127th) and Williamsburg (222nd) lagged considerably behind Fredericksburg in the rankings.

The online site looked at “the obvious factors, such as affordability and health care available,” as well as “taking a deep dive into more nuanced indicators, such as the availability of museums and parks, the quality of the transportation system, and the amount of air and water pollution.”

Two of the key factors in Fredericksburg’s favor were the high number of primary care physicians—145 per every 100,000 residents, which is above the national average—and relatively affordable housing and assisted living costs, both of which put The ‘Burg in first place nationally in these categories.

We do have a small quibble with Caring.com’s listing of traffic congestion as “less than the national average” when Interstate 95 in Fredericksburg has had two of the worst traffic hotspots in the nation, but that mostly affects commuters, not senior citizens who can usually choose to drive during off-peak hours.

Three areas of concern are the fatal crash rate (7.47 per 100,000 population), the local crime rate (489.5 per 100,000 population), and poor drinking water quality, all of which are above the national average. But these flaws were not enough to overcome all the positives for seniors. Overall, “the city does quite a bit to keep seniors in the community comfortable and happy,” the website concluded.

These well-deserved bragging rights should prompt new respect for a city that has not always gotten its fair share of state or national attention.

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Following the 2017 “blue wave” elections that saw Democrats win majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly, and the fact that the GOP has not won a statewide race since 2009, many pundits declared that Virginia was now a blue state and that Republicans were destined to remain a minority party. But as Mark Twain might have said, “rumors of [Republicans’] demise have been greatly exaggerated.”

IN A RECENT response to my columns about Fredericksburg’s coming spending binge, Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw declared that the city is not in financial crisis. But Mayor Greenlaw’s words are misleading. Of course, the city isn’t in financial crisis. It has yet to spend any of the $100-plus million on new capital projects it’s planning for the next five years.

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