[Guest post by Kavan from UMBC]
In my years tracking state government news as a reporter for Stateline.org, I saw a lot of doom and gloom stories like this gem from the Cincinnati Enquirer:
Study: Aging Ohioans putting strain on economy
COLUMBUS — Ohio’s aging population is going to put a backbreaking strain on the state’s economy, property-tax base, health-care and retirement systems starting in 2012, according to a study released last week.
“Backbreaking”? Sounds like Ohio has a pretty serious problem… OLD PEOPLE… here are the numbers:
Today, Ohio experiences a daily net increase of 14 people age 65 or older. By 2012, that number grows to 119 new retirees per day.
The publisher of the report goes on to call Ohio’s aging population a ”disaster for state and local budgets, with no obvious solution.”
Well, that’s one way to look at our elder-rich future. And I won’t argue with the numbers. For the first time ever in a handful of states, healthcare is supplanting education as the largest chunk of the budget. And we know most healthcare spending goes towards caring for people in the final years or months of their lives. Nationally, America’s official debt is over $9 trillion, and our primary social safety nets for older adults — Social Security and Medicare — face unfunded liabilities upwards of $40.9 trillion. Locally, nationally and globally, we face some pretty significant public policy challenges in terms of adapting to our rapidly expanding population of elders. Duh. Nobody is arguing with that.
But that is no excuse for the hysterical tenor of most news coverage about the “Silver Tsunamai” waiting to wipe out our economic future. I don’t care how scary the demographic projections are, there is no excuse for painting the entire over-65-demographic as a bunch of freeloading leeches poised to suck our economy dry.
In fact, some folks are making a case that there is actual VALUE — social, economic, spiritual, etc. — to be gained by welcoming elders with open arms.
Our state is going to beat your state.
What I mean by this is simply a promise that Colorado will be doggedly persistent in transforming the aging of the Boomer generation into a strategic focus and an economic opportunity. Many states are talking about it; few are taking substantive action.
After two years of planning and generous contributions of time, resources and energy, Colorado introduced last November its strategic vision called Silverprint Colorado. Our goal is straightforward:
Colorado will establish a culture for positive aging addressing the needs, contributions and opportunities for all its older residents.
Certainly this vision addresses our intentions to provide quality care and assistance to older Coloradoans late in life. But it’s also a revelation about economic opportunities.
As I discussed in my keynote address, Colorado has exceptional prospects to capitalize on aging in the areas of tourism, housing, spirituality, healthcare, biotechnology, the arts, the green movement, and education, to name a few.
Colorado has a mile-high vision for aging; we have broad-based support; and we have an entrepreneurial drive that’s endemic of the new west.
If you live elsewhere and I’ve stimulated your competitive instincts to challenge Colorado’s preeminence as the nation’s most hospitable state for Boomers and pre-Boomers, then, frankly, we all win.