Thinking about a long-term plan and redesigning services for aging Baby Boomers as they move out of the workforce and into retirement is not something too many counties within the U.S. are addressing with great urgency.
Here in Eagle County, our community leaders have been hard at work for quite some time addressing this need. They have developed the Community Health Improvement Plan in partnership with community organizations and citizens in an effort to address health concerns in Eagle County. I believe the move was prescient.
According to the plan, Eagle County’s fastest population growth will be residents older than 60. The largest area of growth is expected in the 75 and older group. The state demographer’s office emulates these findings of the population between 65 and 99 within Eagle County.
AN AGING POPULOUS
In 2010, Eagle County had a population base of 3,005 persons age 65 and older. The demographer’s office estimates that in just the six years that take us to 2020, this number grows 157 percent to an estimated 7,721 persons.
If this number was not outstanding enough by itself, it is estimated that by 2030, Eagle County will encounter have a population of persons 65 and older exceeding 12,998 persons, representing a growth rate of 333 percent.
Eagle County has about 15 percent of its estimated 52,000 population between the ages of 30 and 44. The CHIP, which is available online, states that “the county has experienced a demographic shift since 2000, when the median age was 31. With Baby Boomers getting older and more retirees moving into the county, the median age is projected to peak at 40.7 in 2029.” This is substantial and well worth the attention of our community members, current businesses and future business entrepreneurs that will see and fill this growing market need.
On a national level, the population of those 65 and older will double between 2000 and 2030, according to the federal Administration on Aging. That adds up to one out of every five Americans — 72.1 million people.
Understanding the needs of communities
In an effort to assist cities and counties to better understand and meet the needs of their aging population, five national organizations have joined forces to identify ways to prepare.
The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, in partnership with the International City/County Management Association, National Association of Counties, National League of Cities and Partners for Livable Communities have developed the project’s first phase, Maturing of America — Getting Communities on Track for an Aging Population. Within this first phase, the group of partners surveyed 10,000 local governments to:
• Determine their “aging readiness” to provide programs, policies and services that address the needs of older adults and their caregivers.
• To ensure that their communities are “livable” for persons of all ages.
• To harness the talent, wisdom and experience of older adults to contribute to the community at large.
AN UNPRECEDENTED PROBLEM
Of the 10,000 governments studied, only 46 percent of the communities have begun to address the needs of the rapidly increasing aging population. Further, the survey showed that although many communities have some programs to address the needs of older adults, few have undertaken an all-inclusive assessment to make their communities better prepared for what lies ahead.
This could prove detrimental. As many local governments often experience somewhat gradual and calculated growth, what is coming has never happened before — ever. Never before has such a large segment of our population posed such great challenges to our tax revenues, medical offerings, housing, land planning, parks and recreation, and transportation.
Did you know that there is an inverse curve relating the dramatic increase in the amount of persons 65 and older to the workforce population that is able to provide service? Perhaps you may want to take note that between 2000 and 2050 the population of persons 16 to 64 is projected to only grow by 33 percent. You recall the estimates provided above for senior growth both nationally and locally?
Next week, part 2 of this article will provide education about our community’s current plans to address the aging population. The article will also address concerns in our community’s work-force population that may greatly impair ability to not only service the aging population but our world-class service industry — our financial backbone.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. Visit www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526 for more information.