California is on the verge enormous change. In 2030—when the youngest baby boomers have reached retirement age—the state’s senior population will be nearly twice as big as it is today. It will be more ethnically and racially diverse. And many more seniors are likely to be living alone.
These changes have already begun, and their policy implications are wide-reaching. The state’s growing and changing senior population will require more support services and health care professionals. How is California coping with the challenge? That was the question posed to a panel of experts at a PPIC event in Sacramento last week.
“We could be doing better,” said Assemblymember Cheryl Brown, chair of the Assembly Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care. She said information that can help caregivers is fragmented and not easily accessible.
Her assessment was shared by fellow panelists Karen Keeslar, executive director of the California Association of Public Authorities for In-Home Supportive Services, and Barbara O’Connor, a boardmember of AARP.
But Brown sounded a hopeful note. She predicted that as many more Californians—including legislators—begin care for aging loved ones the issue would become prominent. In fact, Brown and her fellow panelists are or have been caregivers for members of their own families. Keeslar noted the sheer number of Californians who are using in-home support services today—507,000, compared to 90,000 in 1980.
O’Connor advocated new models for senior living to help more Californians live as independently as possible—and not necessarily alone at home. Small senior communities are thriving as alternatives to nursing homes in other states, she said.
“It’s not just nursing home versus staying home,” she said.
Before the presentation, PPIC research fellow Laurel Beck provided an overview of a new report, Planning for California’s Growing Senior Population, which she coauthored.