By Stephen W. Fielding, Director, Revere Office of Elder Affairs
Recently I attended the 2017 Massachusetts Councils on Aging and Senior Center Directors (MCOA) Conference. It is supported by the MA Executive Office of Elder Affairs leadership and staff. It is always an informative, educational, and very revealing conference. Revealing because the number one take-away is the statistics regarding the Massachusetts senior population (age 60 years or more) of which Revere is part of. It is startling and as MCOA reported:
The 60+ population has increased by an estimated 315,000 adults since April 1, 2010, a 24.6-percent growth and still continuing.
On Dec. 31, 2016 for the first time in Massachusetts history, the number of people in our Commonwealth aged 60 and over became greater than the population under 20.
Over the next 20 years:
Overall population growth in Massachusetts will be 11.8-percent
But the 60+ population will grow at a phenomenal rate 64.8-percent. Startling to say the least!
The 20-59 age cohort will remain steady. Are they ready to support their older peers as their peers supported those before them?
However, the age 20 population is projected to decrease slightly.
Are we ready in the Commonwealth to provide for our elders? Is Revere ready on the local level? This is a question our state and city officials need to ask over and over. By 2035, only 18 years from now but gaining ground each year, 29-percent of our residents will be 60+. Do we have the infrastructure in place to meet this need? In addition, other projections indicate that the 85+ population will also see dramatic increases as residents live longer. Will most be able to stay in their current community? What are the implications of each Council on Aging/Elder Affairs departments? How will city budgets address this surmounting change?
I’d like to once again, share information derived from The Gerontology Institute, McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston that researches and charts statistical information. I cited the following two years ago which is on point today:
Data released from the 2010 census reveal that the aging of the population is occurring at a rapid pace in Massachusetts.
The number of individuals aged 60 and over, numbering 1.3 million people, increased by 16-percent between 2000 and 2010.
People aged 60 and over now represent 19.5-percent of Massachusetts’ population. This large increase is due primarily to the aging of the Baby Boom population — the large cohort of individuals born between 1945 and 1964.
Ten-thousand Baby Boomers per day now reach age 65 and retire each day. Growth in the 60+ population, as well as in the middle-aged population aged 45-59 (which grew 22-percent during that 10-year time frame), offsets declines in the size of the younger population.
Taking all age groups together, Massachusetts increased in population from 6.3 million in 2000 to 6.5 million in 2010, an overall growth of 3.1-percent. For the first time in U.S. history there are now more individuals age 60 or older than individuals age 20 or younger.
As a result of the aging of the Massachusetts population, one in five Massachusetts residents is now aged 60 or over, and 14 percent is aged 65 or more.
One-quarter of all of the households in Massachusetts includes at least one person aged 65 and over. Indeed, eleven percent of all Massachusetts households are now composed of a person aged 65 and over living alone.
Massachusetts is home to more than 6.5 million people. Of these, more than 2.2 million (33.6 percent) are over age 50; nearly 1.3 million (19.4 percent) are over 60; nearly 650,000 (9.7 percent) are over 70; and nearly 300,000 (4.3 percent) are over 80. The proportion of women rises to 65.3 percent of those 80 and older.
The proportion of Massachusetts’s population that is 60 and older is growing more rapidly than other components of the population.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than 25 percent of Massachusetts’s population will be 60 and older by the year 2030, an increase of 33 percent from 2012.
The over 85-year-old senior segment of the population is the most rapidly growing segment.
One in three seniors live alone. One in three senior household incomes is $20,000 (poverty level).
Thirty-three percent of those 65-74 years old are still working.
One in four 65-year-olds do volunteer work.
Twenty-five percent of the workforce are senior caregivers.
Support for senior services is crucial to meet the demands of this growing age segment. In Revere we need to do more and pay closer attention to our senior citizens. The rising growth rate will affect housing needs, property taxes, water rates, school support, fire and police respondent calls, ambulatory services, health services, etc. The list goes on and on. I expect and our seniors expect our municipal leaders to completely understand the cause and effect of this growth situation. Dropping off cookies to the senior center or raffle gifts does not address the problems seniors face or the services they need. I encourage our leaders to be true senior advocates who need to be better educated in all phases of elderly issues.
At the Rossetti-Cowan Senior Center we address real problems facing our elders – abuse of all kinds, home healthcare needs, homelessness, hunger, medical issues, mobility challenges, financial obstacles, and many others. Yes, we provide affordable meals, transportation, health and exercise classes, an assortment of programs, activities, and services, and enjoyable entertainment. But I ask that you not be blindsided by these fun, positive occurrences and experiences. by these and look at the big picture. We, as well as each city/town in Massachusetts (and nation-wide), must address this elephant in the room – the elderly population is exploding. The shocking after-effects is touching in Revere right now. I have confidence in our city officials that they will realize the need to put this issue on the forefront.
In closing, I intend to create a Revere Senior Task Force in 2018 and use MCOA and the MA Executive Office of Elder Affairs, both state-wide organizations that I have a strong relationship with, as a resource to make Revere an age-friendly community. I look forward to this endeavor and will always ensure our senior citizens remain relevant and a priority.