Enough resources for booming elderly population? | TheUnion.com

Enough resources for booming elderly population?

Nevada County is known for its green pines, azure lakes – and ever-growing population of gray-haired people.

By 2040, the number of people 60 and older is expected to grow to 50,000, up from 20,000 in 2000, according to the nonprofit Agency on Aging.

As the elderly population grows, so does the concern about providing them with services.

“It’s the pig moving through the python,” said Terry Boyer, director of Interim HomeStyle Services in Grass Valley. Boyer organized a forum on aging at the Madelyn Helling Library in Nevada City Wednesday.

About 30 people attended to hear Will Tift, a representative from the nonprofit Area 4 Agency on Aging, talk about the challenges of caring for an increasingly elderly population. The Agency for Aging oversees federal funding for the aged in Nevada, Placer, Sierra, Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties.

“There are going to be a lot more aging people in society,” Tift said. “We as a community are nowhere close to being able to handle it.”

Nearly 70 percent of those aged 65 and older need senior services, and those services may be overwhelmed as the baby boom generation – those born between 1946 and 1964 – head into retirement and old age, Tift said.

As the federal Social Security program’s funding grows increasingly scarce under the burden of more and more retirees, some in the audience suggested a return to pre- World War II living arrangements, with multiple generations under one roof, may be the solution.

Beyond financial concerns, the presentation touched on other realities of a rapidly growing senior population.

“One of the things that came along with baby boomers was the (birth control) pill,” Tift said. “With current health care, we’ve got death control, where technology is aimed at keeping you alive, but not necessarily increasing your quality of life.”

Access to quality health care can be a challenge for county residents, given the distance to large urban centers, Tift said.

One of the most fascinating impacts of aging is the effect of death and dying on the family unit, said Sarah Harper, an independent home health nurse who attended the forum.

“I’m really interested in what growing old means, particularly dying, because it’s such an eruptive experience,” Harper said. “It can be very disruptive to the family structure, and I’m interested in being a part of that structure dismantling and recreating itself.”

To contact Staff Writer Kyle Magin, e-mail kmagin@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4239.

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