Vail Daily column: The needs of an aging population?
Over the past century, life expectancy has dramatically increased. The impact this will have is going to change our country and communities everywhere.
In 2010, the U.S. population over te age of 65 was estimated to be almost 39 million. By 2015, this cohort grew to be almost 45 million — a 15 percent increase. During the same period, the U.S. population only grew by about 4 percent and the workforce population of people ages 20-49 only grew by about 1 percent.
Understanding the magnitude and impact of an aging population growing faster than both the general population and the workforce population is complicated. This change is causing a dilemma this country has never seen.
Some of the concerns academics have about the age shift in population include:
• Aged people claiming pension benefits with less people working and paying income taxes.
• Decrease output growth and reduced capital investment.
• Increased government spending on health care lowered tax revenue.
• Shortage of workers.
WHY THIS MATTERS
When a population of people leaving the workforce grows three times faster than the national population and 15 times faster than the workforce age people available to replace them, it should be quite obvious — a problem will arise.
Addressing health reforms, social services, and labor-markets are challenging issues in general; however, when considering the changing balance in an increasing age population versus a decreasing working population, things become challenging. This current change is a catalyst large enough to reshape not only the U.S. economy, but that of the world as well.
SUPPLY AND DEMAND OF LABOR
If qualified workers cannot be found in our cities and states, then either labor has to move or services from other cities, states and countries will need to be solicited. But, if a labor shortage is occurring everywhere, then a fight for labor will occur. Quite simply, as supply decreases and demand increase, prices increase to promote a lowering of demand. This is the fundamental principal of economics. How will the mountain towns compete for this labor?
A bit of panic
Bringing this matter closer to home may invoke a reality check and bit of panic. This labor shortage presents a unique challenge for our mountain communities. While on a global basis, international trade and improvements in technology may generate productivity growth in many industries, our mountain communities predominately rely on labor, not technology.
Many of our mountain communities exist because we provide services. We provide lodging, entertainment, food, and retail services to name a few. Soon we will need to address financial and funding shortages, transportation, and housing as we prepare for our aging population.
One of the services that does not often come to mind but is integral to our community growth and its’ ability to provide services to the aging population is nursing and medical. Nurses and medical related professionals are in short supply everywhere. However, here in the mountain towns of Colorado, this labor segment is in dire need. Getting this labor pool to both consider staying in our communities and enticing them to relocate here is challenging. Our cost of housing and our level of compensation dissuades many.
demographics are changing
If we do not immediately address our need to provide good paying job opportunities and affordable housing to prospective laborers, then we will face a plight to the likes never seen.
Our mountain communities are not only growing at a rate greater than the rest of the state, but the demographic of aging and retiring people living and moving to our mountain communities is growing at even greater and unprecedented rates.
The numbers presented in this graph were derived from the Colorado State Demographer’s office and the U.S. Census. Even if these statistics are somewhat overstated, even by 50 percent, there is little denying that our population of the elderly along with the service they will demand must be addressed.
Our county’s ability to address the medical needs of seniors will far exceed all other service needs. Here lies great opportunity for our community — a new economic driving force. A vibrant medical economy will bring in numerous new businesses and will provide many high paying jobs.
On Thursday, the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments and the Alpine Area of Aging will present the Senior GAP Analysis report. The presentation will provide a detailed analysis of the needs and service gaps within our communities for people 60 and over.
Please come participate in this meeting. Understanding the changes and future demands of our communities and how they will affect all residences and businesses, is important to us all. The meeting will be held at the Eagle County government building in Eagle (500 Broadway) from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.