The current thinking is that it's a baby boomer thing. I think it's also gotta be related to the fact that the younger crowd generally have younger kids that need more attention, so have less free time to devote to sports. I don't think that's an orienteering thing, seems to be the same trend everywhere.
Shortly after I wrote my previous comment above (from August 3rd), I was kinda wondering two things: 1) maybe this is a boomer thing, or 2) maybe orienteering has always had an older crowd.
I've only been orienteering in earnest since 2004, and I went to my first A-Meet in 2005. Basically, I haven't been around all that long.
So, I did a quick compare and contrast. I took the results from this year's Classic Champs, and compared them with the oldest, most relevant results I could find linked from the O-USA website
, which were the 1998 US Short & Long Champs in Rochester.
(Note that most of those old links point to dead websites... I had to use the Wayback Machine to find archived results.)
I compared how large the age groups were (as a percentage of all competitors) in 1998 vs. 2011. The 1998 event had 334 competitors, the 2011 event had 244.
00-20 18.3% 16.4%
21-34 20.4% 09.8%
35-49 26.6% 19.3%
50-64 18.3% 30.7%
65-99 02.7% 11.1%
Open 14.1% 13.1%
Each column adds up to 100%, natch. The median runner (not including Open) in 1998 ran in M/F35+, and the median runner in 2011 ran M/F45+.
I'm only comparing two events. I don't have the time/desire to compare more.
I'm not a statistician, nor do I pretend to be one.
One is a Classic Champs, the other a Short & Long Champs.
Both events are in New York.
This doesn't account for older folks who run a younger course.
There may be other factors of which I'm not aware.
So.... comparing these two events, we're seeing the younger ages shrink and the older ages grow, and the median age has increased about 10 years. Is this a trend? If so, is it significant enough to do something about?