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“St. Louis is Aging” discussion Wednesday May 4th to explore senior increases in St. Charles, Jefferson counties, decrease in city

The St. Louis metropolitan area is experiencing a marked increase in 65-and-older residents, with portions of the region experiencing a more dramatic increase than others.

St. Charles County saw a 62.5 percent increase of 65-and-older residents, jumping from 24,852 seniors in 2000 to 40,378 in 2010. The city of St. Louis had a 26.5 percent decrease of seniors, dropping from 47,842 in 2000 to 35,175 in 2010.

About two-thirds of the increase in seniors in St. Charles County was due to residents aging into that age group. About one third of the 62.5 percent increase – 20.4 percent – was attributed to net migration. That means more people 65-and-over moving into the county than moving out.

During the same 2000 to 2010 time span, St. Charles County overall grew by 26.9 percent, far under the 62.5 percent growth for seniors.
For the general population, two-thirds of the population growth in St. Charles County was due to net migration, which means more people moving into the county than out. The other third of the general population increase was due to births in the county outnumbering deaths.

Other jurisdictions that saw a significant increase in 65-and-older residents were Jefferson County, 34 percent; Franklin County, 23.5 percent, and Monroe County in Illinois, 25.9 percent. St. Louis County had a 4.3 percent increase in seniors. While the city had an overall 26.5 percent decrease in seniors, net migration in its senior population accounted for a 16.3 percent decrease.

The ramifications of this demographic shift for the region will be the topic of a discussion, “St. Louis is Aging: Are We Ready?” from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 4, at the St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library, 1301 Olive.

Panelists and presenters will be Lori Fiegel, of St. Louis County’s Office of Strategy and Innovation; Sheila Holm, of the AARP; Gayle McHenry, of Shepherd’s Center; Jamie Opsal, of Seniors Count of Greater St. Louis; and Mary Rocchio, of East-West Gateway. The moderator will be Yemi Akande-Bartsch, of FOCUS St. Louis.

The 12-page Where We Stand update on Seniors and Aging is available on-line at http://www.ewgateway.org/pdffiles/newsletters/WWS/WWS7EdNo2.pdf

Opsal says a large part of the increase of seniors in St. Charles County is due to the people who moved there when they were younger and have stayed after reaching 65. Part of the problem of suburban living for seniors, Opsal says, is needing to depend on an automobile beyond the time when they are able to drive. “When you live in a cul-de-sac and you can’t drive, you’re stuck,” Opsal says.

The city’s older housing stock and concern about crime could be factors in seniors moving out from the city, Opsal says. Efforts to build one-level, universal access housing, or retrofit older housing to meet senior needs, could give seniors options outside of nursing homes. “Not everyone can afford a nursing home, or wants to be in one,” she says.

The Where We Stand research reveals St. Louis seniors, whether they own or rent, fare better than most in other metro areas when it comes to being “housing-cost burdened.” In St. Louis, only 25.1 percent of senior home owners pay 30 percent or more of their income on housing. For renters the ranking is lower, 46th, even though the percentage paid on housing is higher – 51.2 percent.

In New York City, 41.5 percent of senior home owners are housing-cost burdened. For renters, San Jose ranks first with 68.8 percent of seniors paying at least 30 percent of their income on housing.

St. Louis ranks 5th highest in homeownership among seniors, with 81.1 percent of households where seniors live being owner-occupied, with an adult 65 or older as the head of the household. The other 18.9 percent of local seniors rent.

According to the most recent Where We Stand update on seniors and aging, St. Louis does have a high portion of its population over 65, and by most measurements they are faring well – for now. As a percent of the total population aged 65 and older, the St. Louis metro area ranks 8th among the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas, with 14.9 percent of St. Louis at least 65 years old in 2014.

Over the next 30 years, the 65-and-older segment of the local population will increase by 77 percent, an increase of about 290,000 people. According to projections by the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, by 2045 one out of every four people in the region will be older than 65.

Those born between 1946 and 1964 – the baby boomers – are swelling the ranks of the 65-and-overs. The U.S. fertility topped out at 3.7 births per woman in the 1950s, and has dropped to the current 1.9 births per woman. Growing longevity and smaller families translate into an older populace. The baby boomers were just the first wave of the graying of America.

“St. Louis is Aging: Are We Ready” is co-sponsored by the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, the University of Missouri –St. Louis School of Public Policy and Administration, FOCUS St. Louis, and the St. Louis Public Library. The discussion is from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 4, at the Central Library of the St. Louis Public Library, 1301 Olive St. It is free and open to the public.

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