Wahkiakum County's Health Department is looking 15 years into the future when an estimated 60 percent of the population will be 60 years old or over.
"It's not just Wahkiakum County, it's everybody," Sue Cameron, county Health and Human Services Department Director, said Tuesday. "There will be a lot of dynamics our county will need to deal with."
Cameron and other health officers discussed the issue Tuesday at a meeting with county commissioners as the County Board of Health. They presented a short presentation that spoke of a permanent shift in demographics nationwide in which older people at or close to retirement age will outnumber younger people. Institutions such as Social Security won't work as they are working today. For example, when Social Security was started, services began at age 65, and life expectancy was 62 years of age. Now, life expectancy is around 80 years, 15 years beyond retirement.
Department staff came together recently to talk about issues that will come with an aging population and what services might be needed. They discussed five main issues and the concerns they bring. Highlights included:
--Workforce: People will work longer; there will be fewer jobs for younger people; seniors will have longer access to healthcare; more caregivers will be needed . . .
--Health and wellness: More specialty medicine needed; transportation may not meet seniors' needs...
--Transportation: Larger buses with expanded routes may be needed; more medical transport may be needed; a helipad may be needed for life flights; alternative forms of transportation may be needed . . .
--Housing: Affordable housing investments will be needed; the county could be a retirement destination; currently there are shortages of housing for seniors and people needing care . . .
--Community engagement: A recreation center may be needed; service clubs may need to change priorities; classes may be needed in nutrition, gardening and finances; activities will be needed for seniors . . .