The Silver Tsunami …
It’s not a disaster; it’s an accumulating human wave that merits attention and planning. Scientific advancements, improved medical services and informed self-care are resulting in longer active lifespans. This is our dream come true.
And … we are accumulating more people living on the planet and the percent of the population that is 65 or older is growing … rapidly. CTN’s locations of operation — California (39,557,045 or 12.0% of the U.S.) and Texas (25,145,561 or 8.8% of the U.S.) — are the two most populous states in the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, persons 65 and older in July 2018 were 14.3% of California’s population (5,656,657 — equivalent to the entire population of Wisconsin, the 20th largest state) and 12.6% of people living in Texas (3,168,337 — equivalent to the entire population of Utah, the 30th largest state). By 2030, the population over 65 in California is expected to be 8.6 million (the current population of Virginia, the 12th largest state). That’s the silver tsunami.
On September 20, I attended an event in San Francisco focused on developing a Master Plan for Aging. The hotel ballroom was full of people and energy to contribute ideas and accountability to representatives participating in the working group tasked with delivering a plan to the governor by October 20, 2019. The following priorities to make a livable community for ALL, including seniors and persons with disabilities were identified:
- Access to healthcare
- Affordable housing (50% of homeless in SF are seniors) — “Housing is healthcare,” said Leading Age CEO Jeannee Parker Martin
- Available appropriate transportation
- Employment opportunities (part-time up to full-time)
Society is reframing our notion of aging as improved healthcare and scientific advances support longer, vital and active lives. The Baby Boomer generation (b. 1946 – 1964) is becoming senior, with Gen X (b. 1965 – 1980) close behind. Neither intends to sit quietly in a rocking chair. My 90-year-old mom (the Silent Generation — not so much) still drives safely, competently, and independently. She participates in a book club, practices her faith, and is a serious watercolor painter. She advocates with all levels of government on social issues that are important. She volunteers, and she definitely votes. She is a force, powered by nine decades of life experience, persistent intelligence, and a curious mind with an open door policy. She is a role model, not someone to be uninvited or otherwise excluded. She is not “the exception;” she is the rule.
Many in my mom’s generation and the earlier part of Gen X missed the beginning of the technology revolution, a different tsunami. They did not learn on computers in school and at work sat at desks that held the tools of handwriting, an adding machine, a stapler, and a clock. Men did not learn to use a keyboard (typewriter). We know the results of the Master Plan will largely be communicated and implented using technology. The 2020 census that will inform civic representation and social services for the next decade will be completed online. CTN continues to expand partnerships and locations where we can teach digital literacy and empower people to find, choose, and receive the benefits of the solutions the Master Plan and the energy of innovation will deliver.