Bend is Where Old People Go to Retire

Population report shows Deschutes County is drawing new residents who want to spend their golden years in Oregon.

Deschutes County is getting old fast.

An analysis of population data released Nov. 16 by Oregon Employment Department economist Christian Kaylor shows that the high desert around Bend has become a retirement destination—with the number of senior citizens growing by 43 percent in five years.

"For both Deschutes and Clackamas counties, senior citizens represented the fastest-growing demographic by far," Kaylor writes. "Deschutes County saw an eye popping 43 percent increase in the number of seniors in just the last five years. Close behind are Washington County (33% increase) and Clackamas County (32% increase)."

Kaylor says Deschutes is graying partly because boomers are aging—the same phenomenon that led to a boom in Oregon's estate tax revenue—but also because communities like Bend and Sunriver are drawing new residents who want to spend their golden years in Oregon.

"Keep in mind," he writes, "the primary demographic driver here is baby boomers aging into their senior status, though new migration of retirees is certainly a factor as well."

This fits with a report released this week by the Population Research Center at Portland State University, showing that Deschutes County got 3.5 percent more crowded this year—the largest percentage growth of any Oregon County.

Put those two reports together, and it looks like Sunriver is starting to compete with Sun Valley as a west-coast retirement destination.

None of this is shocking: the silver boomer is driving many big changes, including perhaps the election of Donald Trump.

But the idea that Oregon is drawing retirees from other states is a little counterintuitive. Seniors often migrate to mild, sunny desert climes—but usually in states with low taxes. Oregon's income taxes don't seem to be discouraging this trend, though.

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