New Census data reports the Graying of America and Rhode Island

In a new article published in RINewsToday by Herb Weiss, the changing demographics of our nation takes focus, serving as a wake-up call to Congress and federal and state officials who oversee aging programs and services to meet the needs of our growing population of older adults in Rhode Island and beyond. The following is a selected excerpt from the article.

Can Rhode Island cope with a population growing older?

“It is no secret that the Rhode Island population is growing older,” says Maureen Maigret, Chair of the Aging in Community Subcommittee of the Long-Term Care Coordinating Council, whose Subcommittee was charged with looking at Rhode Island’s older population, its demographics, services and programs to assist them to age in place in the community along with identifying gaps in services. “We issued a comprehensive report in 2016 showing that persons age 65 and over in Rhode Island would go from 14.4% of the state population in 2010 to 25% by 2040,” she said.

According to Maigret, the US Census 2021 estimates shows the state’s 65 and over population is now at 18% and some its communities have already reached 20%. “Our older population is also becoming more diverse. White older adults went from 93.4% in 2010 to 86.4% in 2021 (RI Healthy Aging Data Report.) while Hispanic older adults increased from 3.8% to 6.5%. Our Subcommittee continues to work to implement recommendations we made in nine different areas important for aging in the community,” adds Maigret, noting that she has been working with advocates and legislative champions to implement and put them into law or practice.

“We have made some significant progress in expanding home care for those not impoverished enough to be on Medicaid, to expand respite services for caregivers and this year to fund the Office of Healthy Aging and Disability Resource Center. But we still have much more work to do,” says Maigret.

“I am especially concerned that studies show some 80% of persons age 65+ will not be able to afford two years of home care and many may need more than that. So that is something we need to address by changes in Medicaid and Medicare providing support for unpaid family caregivers who provide enormous amounts of long-term care to loved ones in need. We also be providing more funding for local senior center programs that are shown to promote health and reduce social isolation with its negative health outcomes,” says Maigret… Maigret expresses concern that so many older Rhode Islanders are economically insecure. Twenty seven percent of older households are living on less than $25,000/year yet it costs an older Rhode Island couple in good health renting their home about $41,448 annually to meet basic living expenses (Elder Index).

“Economic insecurity is a special problem for older women who comprise 56% of the state’s 65 and over population and are more likely to live alone,” she says noting that their average Social Security checks amounts to $11,584 compared to $14,578 for men, and mean personal income for women is about $25,000 less than older males.

Maigret encourages state leaders to pay attention to these “age-related” demographics as they consider budget and policy priorities. Read more…

Fast Facts: The Article at a Glance

  • The U.S. population age 65 and over grew at the fastest rate since 1880 to 1890.
  • In 2020, 1 in 6 people in the United States were age 65 and over, compared to 1 in 20 in 1920.
  • The older population increased by 50.9 million from 1920 to 2020, representing a growth rate of about 1,000%.
  • The age group 65 to 74 experienced the largest growth among older age groups, increasing by 11.4 million or 52.5%.
  • The 75-to-84 age group grew at a slower rate (25.1%), while the 85-to-94 age group and the population 95 years and over also experienced growth.
  • The United States ranked 34th among countries with the percentage of older residents, with Japan having the largest share.
  • The nation’s median age increased to 38.9 years between 2021 and 2022, influenced by the aging of baby boomers and echo boomers.
  • Rhode Island’s older population is growing, with estimates suggesting that persons age 65 and over will reach 25% of the state population by 2040.
  • Rhode Island faces challenges in providing support for its aging population, including addressing economic insecurity, expanding home care, and funding volunteer programs.
  • A robust healthcare workforce is needed to meet the needs of the growing older population, and sustainable funding is essential for providing long-term care.
  • Rhode Island’s nursing home workforce has declined, and nationwide recovery is not expected until 2027.
  • Efforts are being made at the state and non-profit levels to address the needs of older adults and promote discussions on healthcare, housing, transportation, and caregiving.