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PSU forum to discuss looming issues of aging
Author: John Kirkland
Posted: April 28, 2011

The first members of the baby boom generation began entering the ranks of "older adults" this year, and nearly 10,000 nationally will turn 65 every day for the next 19 years. Researchers at Portland State University (PSU) say that by 2040 the number of Oregonians 65 and older will be as much as the whole population of the state was in 1940.

Those statistics form the backdrop to the Aging Matters Summit, a PSU forum that will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 3, at the Hotel Lucia in Portland.  It will focus on finding innovative responses to the growing number of older adults - locally and internationally - at a time of declining public resources and safety net services.

The forum, hosted by PSU's Institute on Aging, will bring together an invited group of Oregon's most creative, forward-thinking leaders to consider the many economic and social challenges and opportunities associated with an aging population.

It will be led by former Oregon governor Victor Atiyeh and former secretary of state Phil Keisling, who will engage participants in discussions about the best ways in which Oregonians can respond to revolutionary changes in the state's population structure.

The forum is part of PSU's Aging Matters Initiative, created through a gift from Keren Brown Wilson and Michael DeShane, PSU alumni and nationally recognized pioneers of senior housing.

"Throughout our academic and professional careers, we've seen too many well-intentioned efforts fail due to lack of clear understanding of issues confronting older persons.  We hope the Aging Matters Initiative, by combining economic and demographic projections and meaningful discussions with creative and concerned thinkers, will generate new opportunities for older persons and their families," DeShane said.

Some of facts that will be part of the discussion are:

  • The number of Oregonians with Alzheimer's disease and dementia will nearly double between 2000 and 2025.
  • In Oregon, 20 percent of the population will be 65 or older by 2040, and 4 percent of them will be 85 and older. Currently only about 1.7 percent are over 85.
  • More than half of the children born in wealthy countries since 2000 are projected to live to be 100.
  • The first licensed assisted living facility was developed in Oregon in 1988. Nationally, there are now 38,000 facilities with nearly 1 million residents and thousands of employees.
  • Most baby boomers don't want or can't afford to live in senior housing when they get old, nor do they identify with the types of aging services currently available.
  • People nearing retirement age are seeking ways to stay engaged by pursuing new educational and career opportunities, but the options at present are limited.
  • In 1980, 7 percent of middle-aged Americans had older parents to care for. By 2000, it was 10 percent. By 2050, the figure is projected to be 30 percent.
  • Costs to employers due to missed work and distraction on the part of workers who are unpaid caregivers of older adults and people with disabilities have been estimated at between $17.1 and $33.6 billion per year, with an extra $13.4 billion per year in increased health care costs of employees who are caregivers.