|Mitchell, in Wheeler County (Atlantic photo by Alana Semuels)|
"Fossil is the seat of Wheeler County, where the median age is 56, which is the highest of any county in Oregon," Semuels notes. "By contrast, the median age of Multnomah County, where Portland is located, is 36.1. From 2000 to 2013, the median age in Wheeler County rose from 48 to 56." The county is Oregon's smallest in population (1,300). The town once had "four gas stations, three grocery stores, three car dealers, and a lumber mill. Now, there’s just one restaurant in town open at night. The nearest hospital is more than an hour away, the nearest city, Bend, is two and a half."
"Over the past two decades, as cities have become job centers that attract diverse young people, rural America has become older, whiter, and less populated," semuels writes. "Between 2010 and 2014, rural areas lost an average of 33,000 people a year. . . . Roughly one-quarter of seniors live in rural communities, and 21 of the 25 oldest counties in the United States are rural. Population decline in rural America is especially concentrated in the West," where "technical developments have replaced a lot of the jobs,” Don Albrecht, the director of the Western Rural Development Center at Utah State University, told Semuels.