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Change is gonna come...how growing old is the norm.

By
Real Estate Agent with REMAX UNITED NC# 306781

Until 2 years ago, I had 5 generations of women living in my family; Grandmother, Mom, Me, Daughter and Granddaughter. But we never called anyone old: we just said “You’re older and she’s oldest!” We used to brag about our longevity, but then I realized that many other families have the same scenario. I’ll bet you know a family like this!

Yes: women do historically live longer than men, according to the U.S. census, and therefore elderly women outnumber men. So, most elderly men are twice as likely to be married still during that period of their lives as most elderly women. Did you know that almost half (47%) of women over 75 live alone and do not have their spouses for assistance? With all the health-sustaining options available, men are expected to gain some length in life expectancy over the next 50 years, and so the differences may narrow. That’s a welcome change for both sexes!

The percentage of the population over 65 in this country is steadily growing, as evidenced by the U.S. census projection that by the year 2030, 20% of the population will be over age 65. Clarke County is well on its way to meeting those projections, already counting 1/3 more citizens over the age of 65 than the typical Virginia County. We are already feeling the impact of these changes, and of the implications for local policy makers and businesses seeking to anticipate the influence that this population will have. As the baby boomers reach retirement age, we will see a dramatic shift of economic and social ideas. Baby boomers will make up 35% of the U.S. adult population and will double the 65+ population to 71.5 million by 2030. Okay -- one more thought on “the oldest old”; by 2050 the projection is a population of 19 million over the age of 85. Those folks would be 5% of the U.S. population. Oh, my gosh -- that will be me!  As Sam Cook poetically says, “Change is gonna come…”

To put some of this in perspective for those of us who live in Clarke and Frederick Counties, I have pulled together some statistics from the 2010 U.S. census:

Population in 2010          Clarke               Frederick         Winchester                Virginia             US                                          

Total Population               14,034                78,305                   26,203                   8,001,024             308,745,538

Over age 65                        2,287                    9,954                      3,676                     982,313               40,267,984

% of population                16.3%                   12.7%                      14%                        12.2%                   13%       

 

So here’s the challenge: how are we to address the upcoming needs of our aging population? What resources do we have available currently, and in what areas do we see an extra need? Two important statistics to mention are housing and employment. “What does employment have to do with the elderly?” you say! Well, did you know that as of 2012 for every 100 working people there were 22 people age 65 and older working? The forecast for 2030 through 2050 is increased slightly to 36 people. What can I say -- we are living longer and stronger! Will there be work for these folks in Clarke County near their homes?

As for housing in Clarke and Frederick Counties, there are many varieties of retirement, assisted-living, continuing-care, and memory-care communities available for differing income levels. There are “over 55” housing developments with first floor master bedrooms and baths as well as handicap access, for those who want to live independently.   Interestingly, statistics say 90% of older seniors want to stay in their homes as they age. The phrase “functional obsolescence” comes to my mind. That means the home is not functionally useful for this current day and age, or the needed use. The need may arise to widen doorways, redesign bathrooms with handicapped showers, and move the bedroom and laundry to the main level of the home. Sadly, for some, these changes are financially out of reach. Currently the number of spaces available in our over 55 communities, retirement homes and nursing homes, will only accommodate a fraction of the number of people who will need them. Will there be enough comfortable, affordable homes in Clarke, Frederick, and Winchester for seniors? 

In other areas of the U.S., there are senior developments that have renovated old factory buildings and converted them into senior condos all on one level. What a great and forward-thinking use of space! There are also co-housing units being developed across the country which include independent, one-level units around a large common house in the center for spacious dining areas, heath care services, guest rooms, and activity rooms for hobbies, cultural events, fitness classes, whatever! So the possibilities are endless! Can we think ahead here in our county too?

We in Clarke and Frederick counties do love our independence, don’t we?! Is it possible to promote a healthy sense of independence and still live here? We live here because we have raised our families here, we have lifelong connections here, and because it is one of the most beautiful places to live on the east coast. Is it possible to incorporate our elderly population into our community and provide for their well-being inclusively? For me, it would be really nice if my grandchild could come visit me without getting on a plane to Florida! Maybe it’s time to start the process of adapting for the future which is inevitably coming to Clarke County!   

 

Karen Cifala, a Realtor for Remax Roots in Berryville, is a Senior Real Estate Specialist on the Chip Schutte Real Estate Team.  She specializes in transitioning and time of life issues facing seniors and their families.  She is a member of the Professionals Working 4Seniors Resource group and has a wealth of information to share.  Whether or not you are ready to make the move from your home, Karen can direct you to people that can help or advise you, whatever the need is.  She can be reached at 303-817-9374 or Remax Roots in Berryville Virginia, or email her at  kcifala@gmail.com. Her articles are featured monthly in the Clarke County , VA Observer newspaper.