Growing Aging Population Brings Shifting Priorities, Possibilities

“Given the gift of longer life, better health, greater engagement and more possibilities, the fifty-plus generation of today holds new and very different ideals,” A. Barry Rand, CEO of AARP, told a  national AARP convention audience in Boston last week that included more than 250 people from Connecticut. “The old story of aging was about freedom from work. The new story is about freedom to do something different,” he said of what was described as “The Age of Possibilities- America’s second aging revolution.”

With one of the nation’s largest populations of older citizens on a percentage basis, the changes ring especially true in Connecticut. Past U.S. Census data, for example, indicates that Connecticut has consistently ranked in new-aarp-logo---resized-800x600the top tier of states in the percentage of residents age 65 and older, and as high as 5th (2010 census) in the percentage of population age 85 and olderThe Connecticut Post reported back in 2010 that Connecticut,  in less than a decade, moved from 15th in state rankings by the U.S. Census Bureau of people 65 years old and over to ninth-place -- seventh if those 60 and over are counted.

Between 2000 and 2010, Connecticut’s 65 and older population grew by 7.7 percent and the states’ 85 and older population grew by 32.1 percent, according to the U.S. Census.   Rand cited a series of national statistics that not only underscored his premise, but reflect that the demographic shift is already underway. Rand noted:

  • Most people turning 50 today can expect to live another 30-plus years.
  • They have over half their adult lives ahead of them. That’s more time than they spent in childhood, in adolescence, and for many, it’s more time than they spent working.
  • By 2030, one in every three Americans will have reached the age of 50.
  • At the same time, 10,000 people a day are turning 65 — and that will continue for the next 17 years.
  • The fastest growing age group consists of people 85-plus.
  • We’re quickly approaching a time when people 65 and older will outnumber children 15 and under for the first time in history.

“This reflects a monumental change in our social structure and how we live our lives,” Rand said.  AARP officials said that in Connecticut over the next 15 years (2010 to 2025), the total population is projected to grow by 275,254, an increase of eight percent. When looked at by age group, however, more distinct differences emerge:

  • The percentage of individuals under age 18 will decrease by 11 percent.
  • The percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 64 will only increase by three percent.
  • In contrast, the percent of individuals age 65 and over will increase substantially, by 63 percent, due to the aging of the Baby Boom generation.

The Populations Reference Bureau reports that projections of the entire older population (which includes the pre-baby-boom cohorts born before 1946) suggest that 71.4 million people will be age 65 or older in 2029.

In Connecticut, when the state Department on Aging was established last year, officials indicated that the 65 and older population made up 14 percent of the state's population and was expected to grow to 21.5 percent of the population by 2030.