Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The graying suburbs will need help

A new report from the Brookings Institution finds, in a reversal of trends, that large urban cores will have fewer seniors than the suburbs as the baby boomer generation "ages in place." The suburbs are aging faster than cities and, in most parts of the country, the source of the increase is not migrating retirees, but current residents.

According to the New York Times, "From 2000 to 2010, the population in [the 55- to 64-year old] age group is projected to rise across the board, ranging from an increase of 80 percent in Arizona to a still robust 33 percent increase in New York." The Brookings report notes that around cities on the coasts, such as New York and Los Angeles, the suburban populations already have higher percentages of seniors and will only continue to grow. In the Midwest and central Northeast, the balance will swing to the suburbs over the next decade or so, ranging from 2010 in Philadelphia to 2020 in Chicago.

Concludes the report:

Slow-growing metropolitan areas in the Northeast and Midwest will age as well, but more likely will be comprised disproportionately of “mature seniors” who are less well-off financially or health-wise. These populations may require greater social support, along with affordable private and institutional housing, and accessible health care providers. To the extent those resources are currently more focused on central cities, suburbs may need to play “catch-up,” or cooperate more actively, with their urban neighbors to meet the needs of these aging-in-place populations.
The suburbs of the Milwaukee region should not consider themselves immune to this trend--the growth of people ages 55+ in the metro area was 9.9% between 2000 and 2005, resulting in a 23% share of the total metro population (including the City of Milwaukee). Our suburbs should prepare for the impacts a more senior population will have on health care, transportation, housing, and social services. As a corollary, our region's suburban school districts must prepare for declining enrollments. Regional cooperation seems, once again, to be the prescribed antidote.

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