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California’s Senior Population in 2030: Much Bigger, More Diverse, More Likely to Be Single, Childless

A Million Will Need Support To Live At Home, 100,000 Will Need Nursing Home Care

SAN FRANCISCO, August 6, 2015—California’s senior population will nearly double—by 4 million—over the next two decades. By 2030, when the youngest baby boomers hit retirement age, about a million of these residents will need assistance caring for themselves and more than 100,000 will require nursing home care. These are among the key findings of a report released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

The state’s senior population is expected to grow much faster than the rest of the population—up to 8.6 million. In 2030, it is projected to be 87 percent larger than in 2012. Seniors will make up 19 percent of Californians, up from 12 percent in 2012. With fewer adults of prime working age relative to the senior population, a greater share of the state’s human and economic resources will be used to provide health care and other types of support for residents over 65.

California’s senior population will be more racially and ethnically diverse in 2030. While white residents will remain the largest group—expected to grow 53 percent, or 1.5 million people—the fastest rates of growth will be among nonwhite populations, particularly Latinos and Asians. The number of Latino seniors will grow an estimated 170 percent, or 1.4 million, and Asians by 118 percent, or 765,000 people. The African American senior population will increase by 96 percent, or 230,000 people.

Family structure will also change considerably—rates of growth are projected to be highest among seniors who are divorced, separated, or never married. While the number of married people over age 65 will increase by 75 percent, the number who are divorced or separated will increase by 115 percent and the number who never married will grow 210 percent. The share of seniors who are childless is also likely to increase, which suggests that non-family sources of care will become more common.

“California’s senior population will be much larger, more racially and ethnically diverse, and more likely to live alone, without family members to care for them,” said Laurel Beck, PPIC research fellow and coauthor of the report. “These changes will have a significant impact on support services for seniors.”

The demand for nursing home care—the most expensive option for seniors who need help with daily life—will begin to increase after decades of decline. However, the vast majority of seniors who need help caring for themselves will not be living in nursing homes. The people in this category will have a wide range of needs, from transportation and cleaning services to help with basic tasks such as bathing and eating.

These demographic changes have direct budget implications for the Medi-Cal and In-Home Supportive Services programs, which pay for care and services for low-income seniors. The state will need more resources, including nursing care facilities and health care professionals. Allied health workers, such as physician’s assistants, medical assistants, and home health aides, will be particularly important. California’s community colleges will be critical in training these workers to meet the state’s health care workforce needs.

To ensure that that the health workforce can address the cultural and language needs of an increasingly diverse senior population, the state can support outreach, education, and training for workers across racial and ethnic groups. In addition, the In-Home Support Service program provides resources for seniors to hire workers from their own families or community to care for them. Providing more home- and community-based services that support older people in their homes may result in care that is both more culturally competent and more cost effective.

The report, Planning for California’s Growing Senior Population, is coauthored by Hans Johnson, PPIC senior fellow.

ABOUT PPIC

PPIC is dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research on major economic, social, and political issues. The institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett. PPIC does not take or support positions on any ballot measure or on any local, state, or federal legislation, nor does it endorse, support, or oppose any political parties or candidates for public office.

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