By Chris McGuinness
Killeen Daily Herald
Margo Coster, program coordinator for the Bob Gilmore Senior Center in Killeen, doesn't need a crystal ball to see what her facility will need in the future.
"We will need more space and more volunteers," said Coster. "We've seen growth and things can get pretty full."
Coster is just one of the many people in the nation that will be affected by the current population boom among seniors taking place in America.
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people 65 and older increased by 15 percent over the last 10 years to approximately 40.2 million.
Texas was no exception to the growth in the senior segment of its population. The state, which had one of the highest growth rates in total population nationwide, has seen an increase of more than 600,000 seniors over the last 10 years.
The spike in the older segment of the population has filtered down to the county and municipal levels as well. Census data revealed that Bell, Coryell and Lampasas counties all saw an increase in the senior population since 2000. The cities of Belton, Killeen, Copperas Cove and Lampasas also saw increases in the same population.
Bell County saw an increase of more than 6,000 seniors since 2000; the highest of the three counties. Within the county, Killeen had the highest increase at the city level, with more than 2,300 residents over the age of 65 added to its population.
"It doesn't surprise me at all," said Coster. "I have seen that growth over the last few years here at the center, and I don't think it's going to stop anytime soon."
Coster may be right. Those included in the 65 and over age group are the part of one of the first waves of baby-boomers to move up into that age bracket, and they won't be the last. The 2010 census recorded more than 44,000 people in the 50- to 64-year-old age bracket in Bell County alone.
"You have the boomers starting to come into to the picture, and that accounts for some of the growth," said Molly Bogen, executive director for the Senior Source, a Dallas-based nonprofit organization. "On top of that you have a longevity revolution, and people are living longer. So it's a combination of things."
One in five
Bogen said within 20 years, one in five individuals in the United States would be over the age of 65, and one in four would be over the age of 60.
"We are a youth-oriented country, and this is something we have never seen before," said Bogen. "It's something we have kind of put our heads in the sand about."
In order to cope with such a historic shift in population, Bogen said that governments at the federal, state and local level will have to ramp up services for seniors.
"This will affect everything from transportation, to health care to housing," said Bogen. "We knew this was coming, but I think there has been a real lack of preparation."
Bogen posited that one of the biggest issues arising from the growth of the senior population would be financial security, specifically Social Security.
"There are ways to fix it, but there's so much gridlock in Congress it never really gets done," said Bogen. "The politics get in the way, and in the meantime we will have people with no place to live."
Bogen said she thought the rapid increase eventually may force governments at all levels to make progress on such tough issues, but she also warned that there was no sign of the growth stopping any time soon.
"2030 is the year the last baby boomer turns 65," she said.
Contact Chris McGuinness at firstname.lastname@example.org
Population of seniors age 65 and above. All information was taken from the 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census.
2010- 40.2 million
2000- 34.9 million
2010- 2.6 million
2000- 2 million