There are currently about 35 million people age 65 or older living in the United States. Last year, the leading edge of the population tsunami that is the Baby Boomer generation turned 65. By 2030, the nation’s population of 65 or older will more than double (PDF), reaching 72.1 million people according to the federal Administration on Aging.
The increasing number of elderly Americans means an increasing demand for services, which will strain public resources at all levels. The demand will be great, but it is nothing preparation can’t take care of, and the time to prepare is now. Unfortunately, the economic recovery underway in the U.S. is slow and halting. The consequent lack of tax money means governments will likely be unable to handle the wave of elderly citizens that will soon engulf many communities.
And make no mistake, these older citizens will not be flying south or fleeing the country. Fewer than five percent of those age 65 or older reside in nursing homes. Homeownership rates among adults age 65 and above, at more than 80 percent, are higher than the national average. By and large members of this demographic will stay right where they are, opting to continue living in the communities in which they have spent the last many years—a phenomenon called aging in place or aging in community.
Among the challenges facing underprepared communities, the Administration on Aging, in the same report linked above, identifies the big three as:
- Lack of tax revenue limits government action
- A need for reliable and convenient public transit, as one-in-five of those 65 or older does not drive
- Lack of housing designed to meet the needs of aging Boomers
One possible solution for seniors looking to age in place comes in the form of private efforts called Villages, which function essentially like co-ops run for and by its members. The first community of this type was Beacon Hill Village, a non-profit that launched in 2002 to serve seniors in central Boston.
From the website:
Beacon Hill Village was founded by a small group of residents who wanted to stay in their homes as they aged. What’s sprung up is a home-grown network with 450 members, up from 70 when the community was founded. The members’ ages range from early the 50s to over 100. The idea is taking hold nationally; in 2008 and 2009, 48 new communities were started around the country by other groups following the BHV model.
Villages provide an opportunity for seniors to band together to overcome some of the obstacles preventing their local communities from being ready for the coming elderly population boom. If the concept of a village sounds like something your community would benefit from, U.S. News has some advice for creating your own retirement village.