Silver tsunami: Rowan’s 65+ population to see dramatic increase by 2036

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 6, 2018

SALISBURY — Rowan County’s baby boomers are set to rattle the census once more: By 2036, some 28 percent of the population will be over the age of 60.

That’s a 5 percent increase over 2016. More rapid growth will be seen in individual brackets.

The number of residents 65 to 74, for example, will increase 35 percent. Those 85 and older will increase 53 percent.

Nearly doubling will be the then-baby boomer age group, 75 to 84, with a 92 percent increase from 2016 to 2036.

“We’re already seeing the population shift,” said Nan Buehrer, director of Rufty-Holmes Senior Center. “For 2018, they’re projecting we have more older adults than children 17 and younger.”

Buehrer said the increase will be felt in a number of ways — in services provided by her organization and others, in the housing market, in health care and in other areas.

For Rufty-Holmes, the shift has meant a re-evaluation of how space is used.

“We’re looking at how we can rearrange so we can handle more folks,” said Buehrer.

It also has meant looking at adding programs in different parts of the community, easing travel burdens and “offering more services that go where they are,” she said.

Also expanding and updating its programming is Trinity Oaks, through Lutheran Services Carolinas.

Soon, it will offer a mostly volunteer-staffed program at St. John’s Lutheran Church. The respite program will allow caregivers to see that their aged spouses and loved ones are cared for during short outings — trips to the doctor and grocery store, for example.

Bill Johnson, executive director of Trinity Oaks, said the program revamps and expansion reflect the demands and expectations of aging baby boomers.

“Folks want choices. They’re coming to us with the expectation for choices,” Johnson said. “Some of these choices we don’t necessarily offer now, but there’s ongoing development toward that.”

Buehrer agreed, citing changes in housing preferences among older adults. She said many are moving out of the homes where they raised children to smaller homes with less maintenance.

They may seek out independent living communities like Trinity Oaks or an influx of more affordable senior housing communities in the area.

Lutheran Services is developing an affordable community in Clemmons, said Johnson.

And newer homes and apartments are being upfitted for the aging generation, said Johnson. They’re including open, more modern floor plans and smart technology.

Other considerations for providers include minute details like menus and preventative, forward-thinking offerings from health insurance providers.

Buehrer said that as programs evolve, the goal isn’t to attract more of the boomer customer base.

Quite the opposite, she said: Community organizations often make referrals and point their clients to other services in the area, such as Meals on Wheels.

“We’re working to help folks stay and age in a place where they want to,” said Buehrer. “… We’re all working together to make our community age-friendly. If we’re lucky, we’re all going to get older. We need to think about what we want and need in order to age where and how we want to.”