Number of older Ohioans to double in 2015

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OXFORD, Ohio – The number of older Ohioans will balloon starting in 2015, but it will remain steady until then and the state needs to use these “steady” years to prepare.

That’s the word from “Projections of Ohio’s Older Disabled Population: 2015-2050,” a report by researchers at Miami University’s Scripps Gerontology Center to help policy-makers better plan for the long-term care needs and costs facing our aging society.

The number of Ohio seniors will nearly double, from 1.7 million in 2015 to 2.9 million in 2050. The number of Ohio’s “oldest old” – 85 years and older – will quadruple, topping 1 million by 2050, warns the report.

“We hope policy-makers and planners will take advantage of the lull before the storm,” said report co-author Suzanne Kunkel, director of Scripps. “We all know you can’t just multiply the services we already have.”

Disabled seniors. Most of us will enjoy retirements without disability. But, as the researchers point out, disability chances increase with age, so while only 3 percent of people 65-69 have severe limitations caring for themselves, nearly 30 percent of those aged 85-89 have severe disabilities.

If you add people with moderate disability to those with severe disability, the number of disabled Ohioans over 85 will triple from 2015 to 2050, rising from 177,000 to 622,000.

Baby boomers, whose numbers and increased longevity make them tomorrow’s booming seniors, will bring more consumer awareness to aging.

Making own decisions. “The new cohort of older people will be more independent and won’t want their hands held. They’ll want to make decisions about their care,” said Shahla Mehdizadeh, director of research for the Ohio Long-Term Care Research Project and report co-author.

Other policy observations in the report:

* 42 percent of Ohio’s Medicaid budget already goes toward long-term care.

* Some of the increase in the 85+ segment is due to return migration, seniors returning to Ohio from an earlier outmigration, according to P. Neal Ritchey, demographer at the University of Cincinnati.

* By 2045 there will be more women 85+ than 65-74 or 75-84. Women, who are more economically vulnerable and more likely to be disabled, are more likely to need long-term care.

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