Tiny Alford is oldest; Amherst, youngest

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By L. Finch
Globe Correspondent / December 15, 2010

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Alford, a small Western Massachusetts municipality of 507 people just this side of the New York state border, has few young people, weak cellphone reception, and no gas stations.

But it has retirees, and it has them in spades, town officials said, giving Alford the oldest median age in the state, 60.5.

The median age in Massachusetts is 38.5 years, according to census data released yesterday.

“The age of the existing residents is older,’’ said Charles Ketchen, 66, chairman of the Alford Board of Selectmen.

“We’re in our 60s and 70s. We’re a retirement community.’’

The area was once a farming community, full of large families with many little ones, but as the farms began to close 50 years ago and the land was sold, it became a haven for retirees looking to purchase a second home, said Ketchen.

Slightly more than 50 children, who attend private and public schools throughout the region, live within town limits, he said.

“It’s a total bedroom community,’’ Ketchen said. “Our assessments in this town are very high, and the taxes are very low. People just want to get here.’’

About 70 miles east, Amherst has the youngest median age in the state, 21, according to the census data. With students from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst College, and Hampshire College making up about one-third of the town’s population, and many young families choosing to settle in the area, it comes as no great shock that the median age skews young, said John Musante, Amherst town manager.

The town does make an effort to cater to a broad range of ages, though, with restaurants and museums meant for young and old, he said.

“It’s no surprise, I guess, that we would fall into that category,’’ Musante said. “We’re a vibrant college community.’’

Though, at 48, “I didn’t contribute to that stat,’’ he added, laughing.

L. Finch can be reached at