California Senior Population Growing
...And Growing Poorer
Seniors will make up more than a quarter of California’s population by the year 2060, up from 11.5 percent in 2010, according to projections prepared by the state. Combined with reports showing that more of California’s seniors are living in poverty, the trends will have important implications for counties to consider.
Just since 2010, the share of Californians over the age of 65 has grown from 11.5 percent to 14.8 percent. By 2035, that number will be 22.3 percent and by 2060 it will be 26.4 percent.
In only six counties did seniors make up more than 20 percent of the population in 2010. Now, in 2018, they’re over 20 percent in 20 counties. By 2035, 41 counties will qualify for the distinction, and in 13 of those counties senior will comprise more than 30 percent of the population.
It’s no surprise that the Baby Boomers would continue to age, nor that, as they did, the percent of the population who are seniors would rise. The declining birthrate, which also increases the percentage of older Californians, was less anticipated, but is by now well-established. However, policy makers have done little to prepare the state for the increasing number of retirees and decreasing number of workers supporting them.
Earlier this year, the Kaiser Family Foundation released a report (with accompanying interactive map) showing that 1 in 5 of California’s seniors live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s supplemental poverty measure, which takes into account taxes, government benefits, and the cost of housing and medical care. Under the supplemental measure, California has the second highest rate of seniors in poverty in the nation, behind only Washington D.C.
The quickly increasing number of seniors, and the large numbers of them living in poverty, pose several important questions for counties. How will an aging population affect property tax and sales tax revenue? How will they affect demand for federal entitlement programs? What about siting and regulation of care homes, or handling of elder abuse and neglect cases?
Many of us spend most of our time dealing with issues that feel urgent, and not necessarily those that we know are important. How to best provide for the seniors we know are coming, and the workforce that will help support them, is an issue that is currently important, if not yet urgent. But leaders in counties and at the state should start planning how to deal with this issue now, so that the situation is stable by 2044. Why 2044? Let’s just say this writer has a particular interest in how seniors will fare starting in that year.Data Source: California Department of Finance, Population Projections for California and its Counties, 2016 Baseline Series.