The last few months I’ve spent time presenting to civic-minded groups, groups like Southeast San Diego Rotary and San Diego Coastal Rotary, on the “graying of America” and the resulting aging policy implications. The number of seniors will double in the United States by 2030 to more than 80 million, including 700,000 here in San Diego. As a community and a country, we have an opportunity to prepare properly for this seismic demographic shift.
There are major issues like social security and Medicare that need fixing, but what about:
- Our workforce. As our population ages, so does the work-force. The first round of Baby Boomers began reaching the traditional retirement age of 65 last year. Employers will need to look at retaining older workers through flexible schedules or job-sharing. We can’t afford to have large number of workers retire because there won’t be enough people to take their place; and we’ll need folks to continue paying into social security.
- Housing/Development. Nearly 42 percent of older adults do not have enough income to meet basic needs, including housing.* The loss of redevelopment funding will have a chilling effect on the development of new affordable housing in California. No demographic will be more impacted that low-income seniors. New housing policies and funding sources must be identified to stimulate affordable housing construction to meet the demand.
- Transportation. It is no surprise that as we age, so does our dependence on transportation. For those seniors who either don’t or can’t drive, public transit is often their only means to get to doctors appointments, social outings or to eat at congregate meal sites, like the Gary and Mary West Senior Center. This means investing in public transit innovation that will meet the needs of an aging population.
We have the opportunity right now to begin addressing these issues. The alternative is to simply wait until aging issues become crises and deal with them in panic mode — a really poor way to create significant public policy.
*according to Elder Index. Read more about the Elder Economic Security on Senior Community Centers website www.servingseniors.org