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Why California is not prepared to deal with a large aging population




An elderly woman walks with a walker on December 29, 2011 at an old people's home near Montauban, south western France. AFP PHOTO / ERIC CABANIS (Photo credit should read ERIC CABANIS/AFP/Getty Images)
An elderly woman walks with a walker on December 29, 2011 at an old people's home near Montauban, south western France. AFP PHOTO / ERIC CABANIS (Photo credit should read ERIC CABANIS/AFP/Getty Images)
ERIC CABANIS/AFP/Getty Images

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California is getting older. As baby boomers age, the number of people over the age of 65 will nearly double by 2030.

"Right now we have about eight counties that have one in four people who are over the age of 65," said Donna Benton, research associate with USC's School of Gerontology. "By 2030, it's going to be 20 counties will have one in every four people over the age of 65."

The problem, Benton said, is that California is not prepared to take care of an aging population so large. There are deficits in both money and workers to care for older people.

That's why California's Department of Aging issues guidelines every few years on how older people can care for themselves and how caregivers can be better informed.

The latest report came out last week

"We have a plan for aging, just like the Marvel Universe and Star Wars. They've planned their films all the way to 2030," Benton said. "We have to do that same kind of planning."

On the California aging plan and its importance

I think we have to be very aggressive in protecting and strengthening our social safety nets now so that our programs like Medicaid and Medicare and  The Older Americans Act are not depleted in the short term because we really will need those funds, either for the older adults in our family or as we're aging. We don't want people in poverty homeless, suffering and not being able to access care in the next 15 years.

On the effects of having an older population without any services in place

What we will notice is that unless we put things in place now, we might see more older adults who are homeless. You will see more older adults who appear to be with Alzheimers. You may hear more reports  ... of gray alerts that go out on the news. We'll see, when we go for housing, more people who will be older adults trying to vie for the same apartments as younger adults. Of course, in the workplace more of your colleagues will be older adults. 

On what sort of care is most needed

We need to keep older adults where they have access to a healthy and active lifestyle. We have to begin to invest now in preventative health care. Most people want to age at home and you would like your services to be able to come to your home or within your local community within a daycare or an assisted living. We also need to be able to have more opportunities when we're working between that 60 and 80 age group  so people if they choose to continue to work there's more flexibility, more part-time jobs, volunteering, job sharing, more creative ways of keeping people engaged in the community as we age.

To hear more about the California State Aging Plan, click the blue player above.