As population falls in most surrounding counties, Douglas County has not only added people, but growth is picking up the pace.

According to recently-released U.S. Census data, the county tallied more residents every year from 2010 to 2017, the only years included in the data release. Some of those gains were modest, such as when 54 people were added from 2012 to 2013.

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However, Douglas County growth started gathering speed in 2014, with 233 newcomers from the previous year, and continued through 2017, when the county population grew by 402.

That contrasts with Pope, Stevens, Grant and Todd counties, which all lost population, and surpasses Otter Tail County, which also saw some growth.

"We've always been a good place to be," said Douglas County Assessor Keith Albertsen. "It seems we have a good solid retirement community. ... It's a very popular place to live."

And, in fact, many of the new faces are retirees. Those age 55 and up have seen their numbers swell more than any other age category, said Cameron Macht, regional analysis and outreach manager for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Douglas County has also attracted young adults between 25-34 years old, along with their school-aged children, Macht said. But seniors hold the upper hand in population growth. The group of those age 55 and up have grown more than 50 percent since 2000.

"It's primarily quality of life and the accessibility of quality health service, at least that's what the seniors indicate," said Kathryn LeBrasseur, board president of the Alexandria Senior Center.

Many retirees relocating to Alexandria aren't newcomers, she said. They grew up in the area or have family here.

The growth in the senior population presents some challenges, including a need for more affordable housing and for transportation, LeBrasseur said. Some who return to the area are priced out of Alexandria and end up living in other spots around the county, and end up needing rides into town.

Albertsen said the county might need more assisted living-type centers, but may face some challenges in finding workers.

"We're going to continue having problems filling these service-entry jobs because we don't seem to have those younger people out there as much as we used to," he said.