WASHINGTON – The number of Marylanders aged 65 years and older is expected to more than double to 1.24 million in 2030, making it the fastest-growing age group in the state, the Census Bureau says in a report to be released Thursday.
There were 599,307 Marylanders in that age group in 2000, and that number will increase to 1,235,695 people if current demographic trends continue, the bureau said. The doubling of the elderly population compares to an overall state population increase of 32.6 percent in the same period.
A state official said an aging baby boom population, coupled with continued high number of births, could put a strain on education and social services. The working-age population — between ages 20 and 64 — will face increased burden to support services the younger and older groups, said Mark Goldstein, economist at the Department of Planning.
“You’re going to have to support both ends at the same time,” Goldstein said.
The numbers have already created alarm for an official in Baltimore County, which had the largest population over 60 in 2000.
“It’s going to dramatically change the way we look at our resources,” said Arnold Eppel, director of the Baltimore County Department of Aging.
The county, which has plans to expand two existing senior centers and open a 19th, will need to create partnerships with the private sector, Eppel said. Government alone cannot meet all the elderly demands for services, which will require a “volunteer effort” by the community and businesses, he said.
Montgomery County and Baltimore City had the second- and third-largest elderly populations in 2000, Eppel said.
Charles Smith, health-care research analyst at the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, said another problem is that older people may have a greater need for assistance but may have fewer available caregivers, as family sizes have grown smaller.
Smith said that although seniors in his county are relatively well off, there is still a portion of them who have little or no resources.
He said governments of all levels will have to tackle the issue, but said the elderly population should not be seen as just receiving and not contributing to the community.
“The majority of elders are not disabled,” Smith said. “They have a lot to contribute,” such as in volunteer and civic activities.
AARP Maryland Director Joseph DeMattos Jr. said the numbers provide an opportunity to address the most pressing issues currently facing seniors: long-term care, livable communities, workforce development and continuing education.
“Maryland can be a bellwether state on these issues,” DeMattos said.
One state official said that while increases in the state’s oldest and youngest age groups do present some challenges, they can also be seen as a sign of the state’s economic strength.
“The bottom line is that Maryland is going stronger,” said Norris West, spokesman for the Department of Human Resources.
Older residents have contributed to the economy and community in various ways, West said. Besides, the state will benefit from them as a source of tax revenue.
“When we have all the retirees stay, it’s a bonus for the state,” West said. “They are adults who pay taxes, and we welcome the tax dollars because they help to fund schools, roads and social services.”
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