There is a limit to what the state and federal governments are going to be able to do," said Ohio Department of Aging head Bonnie Kantor-Burman.
In 2000, about 25 percent of the population in three of Ohio's 88 counties was 60 or older; in 2010, that was true of 16 counties, most of them in Appalachia. By 2020, it's projected to be 76 counties.
These counties are like the canary in the coal mine," said Suzanne Kunkel, who heads the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University of Ohio. "This is a pretty dramatic change coming."
The area total for older adults stands around 15 percent, compared with 13 percent nationally. In some Appalachian areas, 1 of every 5 residents is already 65+.
More older residents, of course, means more demand for health care, low-income assistance and home help. But these things are already in short supply in much of Appalachia, a region that's long been plagued by isolated mountain homes, poor infrastructure, high rates of disease and the decline of the manufacturing and coal mining industries.
In the face of all this, community-based help and "innovative solutions" are critical, area aging experts say. The Villages concept, pioneered in Boston, has been spreading to North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. West Virginia has designated six "retirement zones" where seniors can access affordable housing, health care, education, culture and recreation.
Wednesday Quick Hits:
- New data shows one in every 33 boomers has Hepatitis C, a sexually transmitted virus that killed more people than AIDS in 2007.
- Psychiatrist and brain-imaging expert Daniel Amen talks about how you can decelerate the aging of your brain to look and feel younger.
- At a White House blues concert Tuesday night, President Barack Obama joined Mick Jagger and B.B. King in singing "Sweet Home Chicago."
- Lois Campbell, 104, still lives at home, goes to church every week and was driving until last fall; the centenarian discusses her exercise routine (which she does three times weekly), diet and supplements.
Photo: Suzy Allman/Getty Images