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There is a Silver Tsunami coming

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e prepared readers. According to the experts, the silver tsunami is coming! Is our city, county or state ready? The Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging states: “Between 2010 and 2030, the number of older Americans will double to 71 million. That is 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day until 2030. The AOA projects Mississippi will have over 634,000 Americans age 65 and older by 2030. Mississippi’s percentage of older Americans to younger generations is significantly higher than the national average. Projected numbers show Mississippi will continue on this trend. Does our local government have a long-term strategic plan to meet the needs of this growing population? If the present budget is any indication, boomers should be concerned. Society tends to put senior citizens in one box.  However, research shows there are several different groups within the baby boomer generation. This group should be defined by their physical and mental wellbeing. The Senior Center of South Pearl River County supports this research. Programs are designed to reach all of these groups. Groups are defined by the following: The seemingly younger boomers work and play the same as those adults in their 40’s.  These boomers redefine what it means to be old. They are working past the age of 65.  You have seen them in the gym or that 5K race. They play hard and enjoy life.

Next, we have the boomers that need some assistance.  Yet, they are determined to age in place. The Florida Department of Elder Affairs made an appeal to building and construction industry representatives and community planners the initiative of “making homes more age-friendly to help ensure that seniors can safely age in place.” Pearl River County has some of the best builders that could initiate this. We will continue to have seniors who need the full time care that a nursing home provides.  However, making the necessary changes in a senior’s home will delay this move and thus, save taxpayers dollars in the long run.  

Dr. James Johnson Jr. of the University of North Carolina addresses the “Graying of America” and his concern with the silver tsunami. At a recent conference I attended, he said:  “There won’t be enough people to take care of those living longer. Generation X and Y are declining due to the early on-set diseases such as diabetes and obesity. Another key driver is the fertility rate that has dropped significantly over the past 15 years.” Johnson believes this will challenge policy makers at the state and local level. More companies are looking into this growing market, calling it the Eldercare Economy. That is why innovators are producing products to allow the aging consumer to continue to live independently.  Currently there are prototype products from glow caps on medicine bottles to smart slippers that monitor behavior before a senior falls.  The key is to design a product that has a universal design. Boomers do not want to buy senior products that look like senior products. Bloomberg Business Week calls it the $17 trillion dollar prize!  Even Forbes has been addressing this issue, claiming the baby boomers are the largest consumer of Apple products.  

They are the largest consumers to purchase new cars. Amazon has launched a new website targeted at those age 50 and older.  Johnson encourages city planners to think about urban design for the aging population. Wider sidewalks, longer light signals in crosswalks, build senior playgrounds and expand senior centers to handle the growth.  

Everything has to change with an aging population. 

By strategically planning a community that is “senior friendly,” will entice more seniors to move there and spend their money. 

Not everyone wants to move to Florida.  

Pearl River County, take heed – childcare will not be the issue in the future, eldercare will. Are we ready?

By: Darlene C. Adams