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California's Aging Population Is Growing, Quickly. Are We Ready?

Seniors are the fastest growing population group in California. The state faces numerous challenges in helping seniors deal with issues from financial stress to access to healthcare and housing.

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Speaker 1: 00:00 The fastest growing age group in California in the next 10 years will be people age 65 and over. That's a major change from the youth oriented culture. California has embraced for decades as the senior population increases to 9 million by 2030 the state will be forced to adapt its physical environment and it's mental state to embrace an older population to make the golden state a safe and prosperous place for people to spend their golden years. Tomorrow, KPBS is hosting a town hall that will be broadcast statewide to discuss what an older population will need and how California can provide it. Joining me as the moderator of tomorrow's Town Hall, Kpbs Investigative Reporter of Meetha Sherma Amika, welcome. It's good to be here. Maureen. This town hall is part of, as I say, have a statewide public media series examining the California dream with all the challenges that are facing California.

Speaker 1: 00:58 Why did you want to focus specifically on the increasing number of seniors? Well, part of our charge is to look at where California is headed and you just hit on the purpose of this town hall in your intro. It's demographics. California is getting old. We are all aging primarily because of the baby boom population. So over the next 25 years, California senior population is going to double. That means that there will be more seniors in this state than there are people 19 and under, and that is going to touch everything. That's a huge demographic shift that's going to hit housing, healthcare, social services, transportation, you name it, and I should say already there are 6 million seniors over the age of 65 in California. That's more seniors than the entire population of Oregon. Wow. Now is the graying of California as some people put it part of a national phenomenon of people living older or are there some specific reasons that California's senior population is increasing?

Speaker 1: 02:07 It is part of a national phenomenon. What sets us apart is our overall population is so large, so of course when a segment of it grows at a faster rate than the other segments, it hits us in an even more profound way. Now you've done a number of reports on older Californians focusing on what it actually takes to live a good retirement in this state. And the challenges that face seniors with money problems. Here's a bit of what they've told you. I didn't have money to eat after paying my monthly bills. I just didn't need. Okay,

Speaker 2: 02:41 and why is housing so bad? It's a lot of homeless people out here for real and it's serious and the old like me and I don't see, I don't see any help coming. The big problem is people at bed 55 can't

Speaker 1: 03:00 get jobs because they're considered too old. I'm all alone. I don't have anybody. And that was Eleanor stone at San Diego. We also heard from Roseanne. Good. When Carl Russell and k from Santa Monica, were you in any way surprised at the kinds of responses you got from the people that you interviewed for these reports? Not at all. Not at all. Because the statistics support what they are saying. I mean, a lot of seniors live alone. They don't have children. A lot of women didn't. Mary didn't have children. They've lost their spouses. Um, in terms of senior poverty, 47% of California's seniors are struggling with poverty. They're making a choice between eating, paying the rent, or paying for medicine. So anecdotally I saw, I interviewed people, um, who were experiencing exactly what the statistics said. Did you speak with any Californians who have managed to make a good life in retirement?

Speaker 1: 04:01 Here I have. I profiled a couple who moved to humble from Pasadena. What set them apart and others who are living a carefree, stable retirement is they bought their homes when homes were still affordable in California for the middle class, they had steady careers, some had pensions, some had healthy retirement savings or both. And because the cost of living in a state was not as high as it is now, they were still able to sock away money for the future. What I've seen anecdotally is the seniors who are not doing well are in this position because there was a life calamity. They lost a spouse, they had a medical issue that gutted their savings or they lost their home and their investments during the great recession 10 years ago and they were never able to recoup. They lost a job and they couldn't find another one to replace it.

Speaker 1: 05:00 So there've been a variety of factors. Those factors combined with the high cost of housing, the high cost of living has forced them to live on the edge or worse to live on the streets. Tell us a little bit about this town hall broadcast tomorrow. What's the goal of the broadcast to inform the public about this major demographic shift, this profound demographic shifts and who are you going to speak with? We have Betsy butler. She is chair of the California Commission on Aging. We have Kevin Princeville who is the national executive director of Justice and aging. We have Paul Downey who is the president and CEO of serving seniors in San Diego and we also have done a Benton who is a gerontology professor at USC. Is the public going to be able to be involved in this in any way? We have a studio audience. We're going to take a few questions from the studio audience and toss them to our panel of experts. All right. Then that's tomorrow. The live broadcast of the California dream projects graying in California forum will be aired during midday addition tomorrow. That's from noon to one. You can find more information on our website and KPBS and I've been speaking with KPBS investigative reporter Amica Sharma Amica. Thank you. Thank you.

Speaker 3: 06:18 [inaudible].

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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.