Many call the large wave of seniors coming to Beaufort County the silver tsunami.
We call it heavy industry.
Public policy, spending, planning and economic development need to reflect these realities.
From 2000 to 2014, the population on Hilton Head Island aged at almost three times the national rate.
In Beaufort County as a whole, the population that was 65 years and older increased from about 15 percent to 22 percent.
By 2030, the number of people age 65 and older in South Carolina is expected to reach 1.1 million and make up 22 percent of the state’s population. That’s more than double the state’s 485,000 seniors in 2000, when they made up 12 percent of the population.
Nationally, people over 65 will represent more than 20 percent of the population by 2050, up from 15 percent today. That means some 40 million additional Medicare-age patients. As one example of how this will impact the health care system, the annual number of new cases of Alzheimer’s and other dementia is expected to double by 2050.
With the tsunami will come increased cost and other strains on families, a need for affordable housing, help for seniors to stay independent, and a call for more doctors focusing on geriatric medicine.
In Beaufort County, the private sector is adjusting. Our recent reporting shows 803 new beds of senior housing will be on the market in the next two years. That’s a 33 percent increase countywide, and a 58 percent increase in Port Royal and Beaufort.
We must have a trained workforce with access to the jobs this industry demands.
Public transportation for the elderly must be improved.
We must get every single elderly resident to safety during a hurricane evacuation — a task that gets more daunting by the day.
The nonprofit sector needs volunteers and donations to help families care for the elderly. The opportunities are endless. Consider the VOICE (Volunteer Outreach In Community Efforts) program at the Beaufort Police Department. Its website explains its value this way: “The Golden Girls are a group of volunteers who come in to the Beaufort City Police Department on their own time and assist us in identifying, calling, and conducting health and welfare checks on citizens within the city who have no one to turn to and are only dependent on themselves. These are usually senior citizens who need to be checked on from time to time. With their help, we are able to expand our community policing services to the elderly and handicapped within the city ...”
We need candidates for national office to state on how they will ensure that Social Security and Medicare will be made sustainable for the long-term.
We need greater attention on the fraud and elder abuse that plagues this growing segment of our community.
We see the silver tsunami as a challenge, but also an opportunity. It is an economic engine for Beaufort County. But it also increases responsibilities in the public and private sectors. It is society’s responsibility to help the elderly care for themselves, and help families care for the elderly.
Beaufort County is well positioned to show the nation how to do it right.