The Center for State and Local Leadership is pleased to offer a new resource/guidebook on innovative local and state programs to address the service needs of aging Americans by state and local governments as the nation embarks upon untested demographic challenges. We encourage you to use it—give us feedback, and keep us apprised of new programs that are making a difference.
The new Census provides demographic statistics of the coming age tsunami. Counties and cities, more than any other level of government, will confront unprecedented challenges. The 2006 Alliance for Aging Research projects that by this year, 2011: “10,000 people will turn 65 every day… By 2030, almost one out of every five Americans – some 72 million people – will be 65 years or older. By 2050, the 65+ population is projected to be between 80 and 90 million, with those 85 and older close to 21 million. Not only will there be many more senior Americans, but they’ll be living longer.” The Brookings Institution’s State of Metropolitan America 2010 report estimates that “while the nation as a whole is projected to grow at roughly 8 to 9 percent each decade, senior growth rates will top 30 percent.”
As John P. Martin and Kathleen Brady Shea, writing for the Philadelphia Inquirer in May, wrote: Philadelphia is trending younger as the suburbs quickly grow older, that there are fewer young children in the region, and that Pennsylvania remains one of the grayest states: “‘It is something we absolutely are seeing,’” the paper quoted Wanda Stonebraker, Director of the Chester County Department of Aging Services, which provides meals, medical assistance, and transportation for seniors: ‘The phone calls are incredible; we probably get 1,000 a month.’ As a group, seniors are expected to double to 88 million by 2050. How communities, states, and the nation, respond and adapt to that change will affect every American, shaping decisions on issues like transportation planning, medical care, and consumer services.”
Craig Gerhart, the former County Executive of Prince William County, Virginia, in our forum on the challenges of aging, warned: “Local governments must do more than deliver quality services. They must increasingly build communities. Building communities involves understanding the changing nature of community demographics, citizen needs, and desires.”
This report makes clear that states and local governments must fundamentally change how they do business, raise revenue, adapt infrastructure, and provide services in order to respond to this rapid aging of their populations. Governments will need to address their senior populations in the context of the variety of roles they play in our communities. Governments must address these issues because: older persons comprise a significant proportion of government employees and retirees; and because older residents will need more comprehensive and coordinated services to remain in their homes.
We regard this resource/guidebook as a beginning, not an end product. So we hope it will be a living resource to state and local leaders. Therefore, we hope readers will provide feedback—but especially let us know about new, innovative programs and practices that are succeeding in your state or community—so that we can share what works.