Ohio Communities Face Graying Challenges

Wednesday, 28 Mar 2012 04:14 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Ohio’s population is getting older, but the state’s counties are not prepared to meet the needs of the exploding numbers of senior citizens, aging experts warn. Some 10 years ago, those aged 60 or older did not comprise 25 percent of any Ohio county.
 
But in eight years, researchers told the Columbus Dispatch, more than half of the state’s 88 counties will hit that mark — and in some areas, the number of senior citizens will be closer to 33 percent.
 
“The bottom line is, the baby boomers are hitting,” said Chuck Gehring of LifeCare Alliance, an agency serving central Ohio senior citizens. “Are communities prepared for this? No.”
 
Many of Ohio’s communities have focused on the immediate concerns of having tight budgets in recent years, and have not thought long term about how to plan for a Baby Boomer population as it moves into retirement, aging experts say.
 
Seniors will need services the communities have not addressed and may not be able to afford. Older Americans will need affordable and accessible housing, recreation options, transportation and — possibly — in-home care and services.
 
According to the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio, the number of older Americans is expected to increase by 80 percent before 2030, to 72 million, making up at least 19 percent of the nation’s population.
 
Transportation usually tops the list of unmet needs, aging advocates say. Public-transit routes and stops are not flexible enough and volunteer transportation networks remain rare.
 
Ohio state lawmakers are starting to look ahead. For example, last year legislation passed to provide $2,500 tax credits to install features, such as bar handles and ramps, to improve accessibility in new homes and $1,000 to help existing abodes.

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