New numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau for 2018 show an aging Lorain County and also a slightly more diverse one.
Lorain County’s population of people 65 and older more than doubled since 1980. The county ranks in the top 10 statewide in the growth of seniors as a percentage of total population.
Although the populations of both Ohio and the U.S. are aging, Lorain County has outpaced both with its increasing population of seniors. Lauren Ksiazek, executive director of the Lorain County Office on Aging, said she has seen the increase through the agency.
“We have seen an increase in requests,” she said. “But funding has not increased to accommodate the increase in the population. We actually took a cut in funding.”
The Office on Aging offers social services that help people stay in their homes, offers housekeeping, helps with Medicare and Medicaid and helps some grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.
Baby boomers fuel demand
Ksiazek said the new numbers are not and should not be a surprise to anyone. The increase is mostly due to the baby boomer generation, born between 1945 and 1964, continuing to reach retirement age and beyond. Ksiazek said the funding they receive did not increase when the boomers hit retirement and now the Office on Aging is stretching its budget to account for everyone who needs its services.
Ksiazek said they’ve had to put people on waiting lists for some of their programs and other aging organizations have had to do the same.
In 2000, the percentage of people 65 and older in Lorain County was about 12 percent, or about 23,000; they now account for 18 percent, or about 56,000, of the population.
Douglas Beach, CEO for the Western Reserve Area on Aging, said they also have seen a higher demand recently, which he said was expected. The birth rate after World War II increased dramatically and then slowed down around the 1970s, giving way to the baby boomers.
Beach said that although they were prepared, no generation is truly ready or prepared for retirement, as Social Security often isn’t enough to cover their needs. Social Security funds are expected to run out by 2035. Beach said the Western Reserve Area on Aging helps prepare people for retirement and also helps determine care plans for seniors.
It also partners with agencies like the Lorain County Office on Aging to deliver services.
Ryan Aroney, marketing and engagement director for United Way, and Beach emphasized social outlets for seniors, which helps their physical and mental health as they get out into the community.
As the population of people 65 and older increases, Beach said it’s important to ensure seniors are a part of a community and have social functions, as studies have shown it lessens the risk for health issues such as depression and dementia.
Aroney said United Way also focuses mostly on the health aspect and preventing chronic diseases, which is where their connection to seniors comes in.
Race, ethnic diversity grow
Numbers for racial and ethnic diversity increased slightly, but have shown a higher rate of growth since 2000. The Lorain County Hispanic population, which is counted as an ethnicity and not a race in the census, grew by about
60 percent between 2000 and 2018, from about 20,000 people to about 32,000.
Statewide, the number of white people has decreased by almost 2 percent, while the all other races and ethnicities have increased.
Aroney said there’s always been an interesting dynamic across Lorain County, with a mix of urban, rural and suburban areas, which brings a lot of diversity into the county.
“We’ve always been diverse,” he said. “... That’s always been our normal.”