It’s hard to imagine a better statistical portrait of a state’s aging population than one available at a new website created by the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University.
It’s a fascinating look at Ohio’s demographic present and recent past and a provocative peek into its potential future.
One section documents the accelerating graying of this Rust Belt state over the past 20 years: It features comprehensive data about residents 65 and older for each of Ohio’s 88 counties for 1990, 2000, and 2010. (Click on the 65+ bar beneath the banner on the top.)
As expected, there’s considerable variability among the counties, with some reporting significant gains in their senior population over the 20-year period (as high as 83 percent) and others reporting declines of up to 10 percent.
Leading the latter group is Cuyahoga county (home to Cleveland), which has seen a reduction in its total population and elderly residents over the past several decades. But look at the data and an exception becomes apparent – the number of people 85 and older is rising in the area (from 20,510 in 1990 to 33,421 in 2010).
This detail is significant because this oldest-of-the-old group is most likely to be frail, in poor health and in need of services such as caregiving, home health, nursing home, or home and community-based care.
Turn to another section of the Scripps website, and you’ll find the future coming into focus with projections for Ohio’s 60-plus population for 2020, 2030, 2040 and 2050. (Click on the option on the home page for the site called “County maps.” The data is displayed on a state map, county by county.)
There, data suggests that older adults will account for at least one-third of the population in 16 Ohio counties by 2050. In 2010, no counties met that threshold. That’s news and, when Scripps launched the site earlier this week, predictably it received some coverage. (See a brief story from the Associated Press here and another from the Dayton Daily News here.)
Shahla Mehdizadeh, director of research for the Ohio Long-Term Care Research Project at Scripps, told the Dayton paper that as jobs become hard to find, older adults put off retirement and young people leave the state in search of economic opportunities elsewhere, a vicious cycle comes into play.
“The state is in the position where its revenue is shrinking, but its obligation to the (elderly) population is going to gradually increase.”
Fine and well, you may be thinking, but I don’t live in Ohio, I don’t report about Ohio, and why should I care?