The aging baby boomer generation is contributing to unprecedented demographic changes in the region and nationwide. The proportion of the general population aged 65 and older is rapidly increasing and more people are living longer lives than ever before.1
Policies are adapting to meet the needs this growing population as well as the costs. New programs aim to help people remain in their homes and communities as long as possible, avoiding or delaying expensive institutional care. Support on the local level from municipalities, nonprofit organizations and neighborhoods is also needed to ensure that older residents have mobility and access to needed resources.
Expectations of life after 65 are also changing. Retirement is no longer a useful generalization for a new wave of older citizens who are working later in life, staying active and giving back to the community.
- The first wave of baby boomers turned 65 in 2011. By 2050, the population aged 65 and over is projected to be 83.7 million, almost double its estimated population of 43.1 million in 2012.2
- The over-65 population in Greater New Haven expected to grow by 52 percent by 2025.3
- The over-80 population is expected to grow by 22 percent by 2025.4
- The biggest median age increases in Greater New Haven are in outer-ring towns. In Branford, the median age rose from 41 in 2000 to 48 in 2016.5
- Projections based on population growth show that the demand for long-term care services for ages 40 and above will increase by nearly 30 percent by 2030.6
The Rising Cost of Aging
Health-care costs tend to rise with age and the number of chronic conditions. This leads many seniors on low-to-moderate fixed incomes to struggle with affording their medical care alongside other basic needs such as food, housing and utilities. Home maintenance and assistance with chores are also expenses beyond the means of many people.
While Medicare helps cover many health-care expenses, beneficiaries often pay monthly premiums for physician services and prescription drugs that are not covered. They also pay cost-sharing requirements for covered benefits. These out-of-pocket expenses are a significant financial burden for many seniors, particularly the near poor, those in poor health, and the oldest beneficiaries.7
Median out-of-pocket health care spending as a share of income ranges from 12.8 percent for Medicare beneficiaries ages 65-69 to 29 percent for ages 80-85. Overall median out-of-pocket has risen from 12 percent in 1997 to 18 percent in 2011.8
Poverty and low-income rates among seniors vary widely in the region. Overall, 7.6 percent of Greater New Haven residents 65 years old and older live below the federal poverty level and 27 percent live in low-income households.9
In New Haven, 14 percent of the over-65 population lives in poverty and 45 percent are low-income. In Ansonia, the poverty-rate for this population is 17 percent and the low-income rate is 40 percent. The comparative rates in Branford are 6 percent and 25 percent respectively, while in Madison they are 1.1 percent and 15.5 percent.10
Aging in Place
Three out of four older adults want to remain in their current residence as long as possible, according to the AARP11. This preference has become a public policy priority in the past decade. Federal and state funding is being directed to support long-term care that helps people age in place, either in their homes and communities.
The initiative, also known as rebalancing, supports the expansion of home-care services for seniors and adults with disabilities. Since 2007, the state has been moving qualifying seniors on Medicaid from institutional nursing homes to community-based long-term care.
The long-term success of aging in place, however, will require more professionally trained home health aides, better transportation options, and more affordable housing with modifications such as handrails and ramps, according to Julie Robison of the Center on Aging at the University of Connecticut Health Center.
“The good thing about rebalancing is that people prefer it. Also, on average, it costs less than going to an institutional setting,” said Robison, also a member of the state’s Aging In Place Task Force. “It’s working incredibly well.”
It Takes a Village
Older adults have a lifetime of experience, wisdom and skills to offer neighborhoods, schools, community centers and local government. For more than a decade, the village movement has been helping people remain in their homes and connected to their communities as long as possible rather than move to a retirement community.
In Greater New Haven, HomeHaven is a grassroots village organization that provides support and connects older residents with volunteer opportunities. The volunteer-run organization connects seniors to rides, vetted home-maintenance contractors and other services that help people remain in their homes as they age.
Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers of Greater New Haven is another network of volunteers that make visits to elderly people in their homes, providing both assistance and companionship.
The Agency on Aging of South Central Connecticut is also a vital resource for older residents. In addition to connecting volunteers to opportunities, the agency provides a range of services to help people remain as independent and engaged as possible in the community.
Local communities can also help by removing barriers to mobility in streets and homes. The AARP advocates for streets to be designed for the safe and comfortable travel of everyone, whether on foot, in a car or on a bike, a concept known as the “Complete Street.” The organization also recommends home design standards such as step-free entrance, non-slip floors and accessible bathrooms.
What Area Nonprofits are Doing
The Community Foundation and its donors fund a variety of organizations that support aging at home, affordable senior housing, health-care and supportive services, transportation, volunteer and employment opportunities, education and recreational activities.
Recent grant recipients include:
Agency on Aging of South Central Connecticut: To support the AARP Experience Corps, an inter-generational literacy learning program of Greater New Haven providing tutoring and mentoring for K-4 students in New Haven and Hamden schools.
HomeHaven: To support a four-year strategic plan.
Town of Hamden: to support the Hamden Phelps Community Project, which provides short-term or emergency support to senior Hamden residents in need.
Interfaith Volunteer Care Givers of Greater New Haven: General operating support to help the elderly remain engaged in the community, age in place in familiar home and neighborhood environments and have access to transportation.
Visiting Nurse Association of South Central Connecticut: To support 24/7 on-call registered nurses to provide palliative care/home visits to clients in all Valley towns.
Ortman, Jennifer M., Victoria A. Velkoff, and Howard Hogan. "An Aging Nation: The Older Population in the United States Population Estimates and Projections Current Population Reports
." U.S. CENSUS BUREAU, May 2014. 1.
2-5 Abraham, Mark and Mary Buchanan. (2016). Greater New Haven Community Index 2016.
New Haven, CT: DataHaven. 11.
6 Connecticut Long Term Care Needs Assessment, University of Connecticut Health Center 5.
7 Noel-Mille, Clairer. "Medicare Beneficiaries’ Out-of-Pocket Spending for Health Care." Insight on the Issues: AARP Public Policy Institute, October 2015, 9.
8 Cubanski, Juliette, Christina Swoope, Anthony Damico, and Tricia Neuman. "How Much Is Enough? Out-of-Pocket Spending Among Medicare Beneficiaries: A Chartbook."
How Much Is Enough? Out-of-Pocket Spending Among Medicare Beneficiaries: A Chartbook. Accessed November 02, 2016.
9,10 http://www.ctdatahaven.org/profiles/greater-new-haven. Accessed November 02, 2016. Figures based on the US Census Bureau American Community Survey 5-year estimate for 2014. The poverty threshold in 2014 was $11,670 annually for a single person and $15,730 annually for a two-person household. The low-income threshold in 2014 was $23,340 for a single person and $31,460 for a two-person household.
11 AARP Public Policy Institute. Beyond 50.05: A Report to the Nation on Livable Communities. Washington, DC: AARP Public Policy Institute, 2005. 48.
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