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The graying of Oakland

By Lisa Brody
News Editor
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06/30/2016 - There's a saying that at 20, you have the body you were born with; at 40, the body you're working on; and at 60, the body you deserve. As more and more people are living longer and staying active and healthier, the saying could be extended to the age of 80.

The first of the Baby Boomer generation turned 65 in 2011; currently, according to the Pew Research Center, 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 every day until the year 2030. That's a lot of senior citizens. Boomers, that feisty generation that has always been "the first" to have ever done anything, comprises 26 percent of the population of the United States, compared to 13 percent of seniors who currently are made up of the World War II generation. By 2030, when all members of the Baby Boom generation will have reached 65, fully 18 percent of the population will be seniors, Pew Research projects. Compare that to Millennials, who now surpass Boomers as the largest living demographic, with 75.4 million in 2015, versus 74.9 million Boomers in 2015. Of course, by 2030, Millennials will be middle aged.

Just don't tell Boomers they're old. In a 2009 Pew Research study, the typical Boomer said old age doesn't begin until at least age 72.

Whether we like it or not, as a society, we're getting older. The good news, life expectancy is growing longer along with us. In 2013, there were 44.7 million adults 65 or older in the United States, representing 14.1 percent of the population – one in seven Americans. And the number of older Americans has increased by 8.8 million, or almost 25 percent, since 2003, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging. At the same time, those 65 year olds now have the likelihood of living an additional 20 years longer than their predecessors.

"Since 1900, the percentage of Americans 65-plus has more than tripled (from 4.1 percent in 1900 to 14.1 percent in 2013), and the number has increased over thirteen times (from 3.1 million to 44.7 million)," said a research report from the Administration on Aging. "The older population itself is increasingly older. In 2013, the 65-74 age group (25.2 million) was more than 10 times larger than in 1900; the 75-84 group (13.4 million) increased by 70 percent, and the 85-plus (6 million) was 49 times larger."

And the numbers of older Americans are forecast to double over the next 25 years as life expectancy is expected to rise to 110 by 2030.

Besides better health and reduced death rates, the impact of a larger, healthier demographic has profound economic influence. Similarly, as that large demographic ages and be­­­­­­comes less healthy, the effect upon the community and its infrastructure is just as impactful.

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