By Wally Pearce
Special to the Express
As the baby-boom generation enters their golden years, California’s older adults are becoming the fastest-growing age group, and it’s estimated that by 2030, more than 9 million Californians will be over the age of 65, an estimated, 65 percent growth. However, the measure of Californians younger than 18 years of age is expected to dip.
The term silver tsunami is used to describe the expected increase in the older adult population and an attempt to understand the impact and increase the advancing older adult population will have on us all. California’s impending silver tsunami will directly influence, mobility, nutrition, chronic healthcare, housing, and transportation, and, for those affected, to be able to age in place. The list of demands continues to expand. But California’s population of those over 65 years of age, is far more diverse than it used to be.
California can expect a major bump in the ranks of those over 65 and beyond, and possibly deprived of family to help them. This is mostly because baby-boomers experienced much lower birth rates than their parents, and some are more than likely to never have children. But, because of certain stressed financial situations, there’s a segment of today’s society, parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents, that currently reside with the families of their sons and daughters, even their in-laws.
Some of California’s older adults have an estimated annual income of about $25,000. That’s about $10,000 less than the average working-age Californian and that amount of money isn’t much, especially in California. Unfortunately, about 30 percent of older adults don’t have enough annual income to cover basic everyday needs, because their total income may come from Social Security.
Two out of every three of California’s older adult population obtain most of their income from federal retirement programs, while less than half of the older adult-headed households get retirement income from a pension, 401k or an individual retirement account (IRA).
Because of today’s deteriorating economic climate, and the necessity to increase their annual income, about 20 percent of Californians over 65 are still working in the labor force. Many labors at or below minimum wage; some work at part-time employment, while still others work at more than one job. All this to make their daily life just a bit more sustainable.
According to the California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office, Californians turning 65 today can expect to spend 20 percent of their remaining years with a major disability, or a debilitating health condition that interferes with basic life activity like eating, dressing, or going to the bathroom.
Although men will spend their retirement years with various degrees of bodily restrictions, women will spend more of their retirement years with major physical limitations, simply because they are more likely than men to live into their 80s and 90s and beyond. The number of California older adults who have difficulty caring for themselves will double to more than one million by 2030, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
California is already observing the consequences of an aging population living outside institutionalized care. The effects of an aging population will also influence the healthcare supply system.
According to data from California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, the number of visits to California emergency rooms (ER) by older adults experiencing debilitating effects from hazardous situations such as falling; are increasing. The number of California’s older adults who find themselves in an ER after falling has risen sharply in recent years, and as their population grow, they may live longer and with more chronic illnesses often requiring an array of prescribed medications.
The number of visits to California ERs by people over 65 who have fallen, surged according to the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. The ranks of people 85 and older, account for at least one-third of all fall-related ER visits.
Some older adults over 65, may have cognitive decline, poor balance, physical weakness, and deteriorated vision.
It’s abundantly clear, that California isn’t ready for the silver tsunami, nor is the state prepared, and that includes none of California’s 58 counties, like Yolo County. To solve or reduce the problem, it must first acknowledge that it exists.
Continuing to kick-the-can down the proverbial road will only aggravate the road and certainly not adjust that what desperately needs mending.