- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 16, 2004

PAHRUMP, Nev. — When Steve Marsh first drove into this dusty town outside Las Vegas, he took one look at the gravel roads and sagebrush flats and grunted: “This is in the middle of nowhere.”

This small blue-collar town doesn’t seem like much. But it boasts miles of clean, open space and is surrounded by desert mountains. The weather is mild, the housing cheap and national parks are nearby.

It was enough for Mr. Marsh and his wife, Donna, to move here to retire.

“We love it,” Mr. Marsh said, relaxing after a round of golf at his Desert Greens retirement community. “We’re happy as pigs in slop.”

Retirees eager to escape cold winters or congested freeways have been flocking to Western cities like Pahrump. The future will bring more of the same: The Census Bureau says the population of those 65 and older will increase more rapidly in the West than in any other area of the country.

While retirees settle in, states are figuring out how to keep up with an aging population. Will there be enough doctors and nurses? Hospitals and nursing homes? Will housing be affordable?

“This affects all of us,” said Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne. “It’s life, and it’s time that we step up, recognize it, identify the challenges and find solutions.”

Retirees in Pahrump live in the third-fastest growing county in the nation for those 65 and older. Only about 5,000 seniors call Nye County home, but that is more than three times the number that lived here in 1990, according to Census Bureau figures.

Nevada leads the country in the senior-population boom. From 1990 to 2003, the state’s 65 and older population almost doubled — from 129,107 to 250,787, according to census numbers. Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, Hawaii, Utah, Colorado, and Idaho were among the top 10 states for growth in the senior population.

Lured by the nostalgia of rural towns and outdoor recreation, retirees have turned Western towns into retirement hot spots. Florida and California have long been meccas. But today, Bend, Ore.; St. George, Utah; Sheridan, Wyo.; and Silver City, N.M., are hip places to be.

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