What does an aging ham radio demographic mean locally?

Based on the regulars who attend the club meetings, at least in Starkville, our average active operator is around 55+ years old. I’d venture to believe that Columbus has a similar demographic, maybe even a higher average age overall.

So what does that mean for ham radio in our area? Well, lucky for us, we have a number of pretty enthusiastic ham operators who are “contagious” to young hams. The K5DY club president, Doug (K5BAK) is one such ham. As a matter-of-fact, it was the result of chance conversation with Doug on the W5YD machine a couple of years ago that had me sitting for my General license test a short time later and becoming an active member of the K5DY club.

Doug is one of several hams like this in the Golden Triangle area. I don’t remember all of the call signs, so comment with the callsigns of any ham around us that has been an encouragement, or a positive impact, to your ham activity. Some others that I can think of at the moment whom I’ve fed off of their enthusiasm for the hobby are John (K5DDT), Steve (N5OMK), Jeff (N5ZNI), and Allen (AG5ND).

When you think of the ones who are leading the pack, so to speak, in our community, many are at, or near, retirement age and beyond. I hope no one takes offense to that, because that’s not at all the intent. You’re not “old” folks. This is just to say that recruitment, inclusion, and encouragement, of young hams is a vital part of the future of ham radio in our area. That’s true everywhere but, personally, I’m in the Golden Triangle/North MS area and that’s where my priority is.

We’ve had a great start to the 2019 year with several new hams coming in and getting active pretty quickly. We’ve had a couple of Day in the Park activities that were fun, but had light attendance overall. I’ve heard it said in many club meetings, from several different operators, that an active radio club is important to recruiting, and keeping, new hams. This K5DY club has worked with the Lowndes Co. ARC this year to setup opportunities like the Days in the Park and breakfast at Vowell’s, in addition to the Lowndes Co breakfast, which I can’t recall the name of at this time. Please forgive me for that.

We need more of our veteran operators to be a part of these events in order to interact with and encourage the new hams that attend. It’s great to see a few excited hams at a Day in the Park event, but imagine the impact it could have if we had 10 or more in attendance operating CW, HF, Digital, or whatever mode you prefer. For a new ham to get to witness the various modes in action is huge and would give you a chance to share your passion with someone else. You may end up being an elmer to a young ham.

Question for today: Is the aging demographic of ham radio operators in our area a concern to you? If so, why? If not, why not? Let me know what you think and how you view the state of ham radio in our area.


3 thoughts on “What does an aging ham radio demographic mean locally?”

  1. Very good write-up, Caleb. I, along with you, also see those same Hams as mentors. Truly a World-Class group of operators that we have in this area!

    The aging demographic is not unique to our area or hobby. Is it concerning…yes, some. I mean, we have decades of knowledge with those operators. Sit down with Walt (AF5KQ) for a few minutes and if you don’t come away a smarter, more curious operator then you weren’t paying attention! And that’s just one example…the same could be said for any of those operators in the Starkville, Lowndes Co. club or surrounding areas. We live in an absolute gold mine of knowledge in this area. That is the the best part!

    New operators will come. Perhaps not in the numbers that we want, but with today’s technology the way that it is, perhaps we can capture some of our senior operator’s knowledge so that we can pass that on even if they can’t. QST does a good job of knowledge-transfer…local nets…hamfests…days in the park…heck, even this site. There are many ways that we all can continue the knowledge-transfer (which is a fancy-pants way of saying “talking radio and using the radio with our buddies and making new ones!”).



  2. As stated before, there is a wealth of knowledge in the GT area for sure. We need younger/new hams to come in so we can help pass on the knowledge to the next generations. The problem seems to be, getting the new guys off of their phones and video games long enough to pick up the microphone and make the contacts! Here in the Starkville area, we have passed a few new hams at the test sessions, but only a select few actually get on the air. We need to figure out some ways to get them on.


  3. I just found this post while searching for “ham radio demographics” on google trying to ascertain some semblance of average age of hams, and you’re right; it’s pretty up there. I’m 27, and I consider myself to be an advocate for youth, as well as an advocate for ham radio in order to bring more youth to the hobby. Age is certainly a scary topic in ham radio. For young people, the average age of fellow hams is a turn-off; young people want to socialize with people their age. The technical and cost barriers to becoming a ham are also pretty steep, but so is the learning curve for many video games, the costs of PCs and/or consoles to run them, and the time spent playing them. There’s a lot of ways ham radio can do better to be more enticing and interesting to young people that would require some significant modernization and cultural shift in our ranks.


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