City and county leaders address the needs of an aging population

By the year 2050, the number of people 60 and older will outnumber children who are under age 15. Are our communities prepared to respond to this aging population that is so rapidly growing? what are our communities doing now to address this trend?

Leaders from Hoover, Jefferson County and one local organization all are aware of what we're facing. But as it goes with many demographic trends, the ability to meet the needs of an aging population will ultimately come down to funding and resources.

"With the expected senior population boom, we recognize that is truly going to be what they call the graying tsunami, so we fully expect that more and more we will be serving seniors," said Lauren Pearlman, Executive Director at Collat Jewish Family Services.

The organization helps meet the needs of Jefferson County's senior population by providing services ranging from transportation, to in-home care and counseling. They serve some 1,500 seniors each year. But Pearlman expects that number to increase dramatically. She urges city and county leaders to not put off dealing with the inevitable. "It's very important and I think that they have to factor that in, in every plan that they're making," said Pearlman.

Pearlman says the organization is surviving financially because of its status as a United Way organization, as well as donations form the private sector and the Birmingham Jewish Federation. Still, she says more community-based services are needed. "If we don't really prepare now to develop those services, put them into place, and build the capacity of people who are providing those services to grow over time then we are truly going to be suffering," said Pearlman.

Jefferson County Manager Tony Petelos agrees, but cautions. "You cannot make changes overnight. With the baby boomers now aging out into retirement years, it's going to put a strain on various resources in our community," said Petelos.

One area of concern is opportunity for employment. Many Baby Boomers are delaying retirement; some by choice, others out of necessity. "They realize, I'm about to outlive my retirement, I've got to go back to work. And they're able. So being able to develop jobs that really are designed for senior adults. And then to help the corporate world to recognize the value of{} hiring that age group," said Pearlman.

Another concern is lifestyle. Hoover Mayor Gary Ivey says the city is already equipped to meet the demands of what's expected to be an extremely active aging baby boomer generation. "That generation tend to loves to shop and we certainly got ample shopping. Stats show that they love to eat out because they can. And we've got some of the greatest restaurants. We have a lot of housing here. Good news this morning is the metro area housing industry is up twelve percent," said Ivey.

Still, Pearlman says there is a dark side to an aging population. {}"Jefferson County has approximately ten thousand senior adults living in poverty right now. That number is going to grow exponentially and we have to look at addressing those needs from a health care standpoint, an economic standpoint, all of those issues play into that and we need to look at those comprehensively."