Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Sunday, Jul. 6, 2014 – 12:00 am

From its inception – first as a Spanish colony, later as part of Mexico, briefly as an independent nation and finally as a state – California has been a youthful society.

Waves of young immigrants, drawn by its expansive opportunities to find fame and fortune, and periodic surges in its birth rate generated high population growth and kept California relatively young.

No more.

Immigration has slowed to a trickle, and with high outflow to other states and a rapidly declining birth rate, California’s once-vibrant population growth has slowed to a walk – just one-third the rate of the 1980s.

The corollary is that those once-young immigrants and their progeny of yesteryear are getting older. As they do, California is growing grayer – fast.

A new Census Bureau report reveals that when the 2010 census was taken, California had 4.2 million residents age 65 or older, or 11.4 percent of its 37 million residents.

That was still one of the nation’s lower proportions of the aged, but in the four years since then, the state’s 65-plus population has been growing rapidly, due largely to the aging of the huge postwar baby boom cohort.

The oldest of the baby boomers are turning 68 this year while the youngest are 50, or soon will be. And with California’s traditional influx of young immigrants and babies in decline, the aging of the baby boom generation will have an immense impact on the state over the next 15 years.

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