One look at Slate’s The Aging World map clearly highlights the fact that it’s not just Americans who are aging. In Japan, Italy, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom their 65+ population is aging at an even faster rate. Japan’s exceptionally old population—23 percent of it is 65 or older, the largest percentage in the world and almost twice the U.S.—makes our “silver tsunami” look like a moderate wave.
But we aren’t far behind. In the next four decades, the populations of the U.S. and most other developed countries are going to be as old as Japan’s current population.
To us at Via, the little dot in the western portion of the U.S. map (actually the Great Salt Lake) looks as though it is pointing right to Boulder County. Recent projections indicate that from 2010 to 2020 the senior population in our county will increase by 74 percent (from 29,500 to 51,200) and will become 18 percent of the county’s total population. By 2030, it is estimated that percentage will increase to 25 percent of Boulder County’s total population.
Everything will be impacted by this growth, from tax revenues to transportation, especially for older adults who don’t drive but still live in suburbs built for cars. While Via has done extraordinary planning to expand and innovate transportation and mobility options, the truth is that we can’t do this alone. Serving this population will take a commitment by community leaders and planners if our older adults are to be respected and honored with the quality of life they deserve.
While the seismic demographic shift compels all communities to prepare, this May is Older Americans Month, and we can give pause to celebrate the remarkable contributions and sacrifices of our elders, and offer our renewed gratitude and support. Older Americans have fortified our country and shaped our world. They have made groundbreaking discoveries, pioneered new industries and led our businesses. They have raised strong families and strengthened communities and serve as role models to our next generation.
While the silver tsunami approaches, May is here, it is important to recognize that each one of us, if fortunate, will be in that wave one day. What kind of community do you want for yourself? Start creating it now.
Mary Cobb, Director of Communications