Advertisement

editorial - herald - 5/22/01

May 22, 2001

Senior population soars: What it means to region



In this past Sunday's edition of The Herald-Mail newspapers, reporter Julie Greene looked at the increasing number of senior citizens in the Tri-State area. Since 1990, census figures show that there's been a 20 percent increase in the over-65 population, a growth trend that will probably continue, with some interesting implications for the region.

The first is that even if more seniors delay their retirements or continue working part-time, most will live on fixed incomes. That will further limit local governments' reliance on property taxes, unless elected officials want to make it unaffordable for seniors to stay in their own homes.

In time, many seniors will seek other living arrangements, because with children grown, keeping up a large house will not be affordable or practical. Seniors will need one-story apartments with wide hallways and handicap-equipped bathrooms, should they ever become wheelchair-bound.

At some point there will be a critical mass of seniors who'll be able to force the political changes needed in the Medicare law, which was first passed when long hospital stays were the norm. Now doctors do much more with drugs, but insurers in the Tri-State area have found it unprofitable to offer prescription coverage. Before the required political changes happen to alter that situation, local governments and non-profits will be called on to fill the gap.

Advertisement

On the plus side, the growing population of seniors will make it possible for non-profits to stretch their budgets by drawing on experienced volunteers, either for a few hours a day or per week, depending on their desire and their energy levels.

But getting them from here to there could be a problem. In recent years, mass transit in the region has not been overburdened with riders, but encouraging greater use of it could give seniors more mobility even as it takes additional vehicles off the road. Like many decisions seniors face, agreeing to stop driving is a tough one, but reliable transit service could provide a little sugar coating for what might otherwise be a bitter pill.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|