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Silver tide
Preparing for an aging population

Date published: 11/13/2012

BEACHGOERS know it's the wave you don't see coming that knocks you breathless. So what's this Age Wave people are talking about and how can we keep it from catching us by surprise?

Writing in Live Well [Oct. 19], Valerie Hopson-Bell, Neda McGuire, and Elizabeth McMaster point out that, for the next 18 years, upwards of 11,000 Americans will turn 65 every day. By 2030, fully 20 percent of the population of Virginia will be older than the traditional retirement age.

The implications of this blossoming of the Golden Age demographic are profound. Health care, housing, employment, finances, transportation--all will be affected. Unless businesses and government prepare for the silver shift, they could find themselves paddling madly, trying to stay afloat.

Misses Hopson-Bell, McGuire, and McMaster, each of whom has expertise in a different aspect of serving older Americans, believe the time to plan for the Age Wave is now. They are working with a nonprofit, Partners in Aging, to do just that. By focusing on the "promise of aging, not the problems of aging" and drawing the entire community into the planning process, they believe Fredericksburg can provide the kind of livable, workable community those of all ages can enjoy.

The Fredericksburg region's proximity to both Washington and Richmond, its rich historical attractions, and its age-targeted developments have made it a magnet for retirees. Add to those come-heres the local folks for whom the calendar continues to turn over and the graying of the area becomes inevitable.

How will businesses adapt? Local governments? Transportation? Who will provide medical care? Ideally, notes Dr. Rebecca Bigoney, there should be one geriatric specialist for every 2,600 seniors. The Fredericksburg region, therefore, would need at least 75. It currently has one physician board-certified in this area (although others do provide care).

By keeping an eye on the approaching wave and planning for it, the Fredericksburg region can not only provide for the growing population of seniors, but profit from it, as well. That's a smart move, socially and financially.