By Dan Sewell

Associated Press

CINCINNATI, Ohio – A new projection Monday forecast that 22 percent of the state’s residents will be 65 or older in less than two decades.

The study for the state by the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University said the baby boomer-fueled graying poses rising challenges for Ohio officials such as the need for long-term services. That number is expected to mount as the number of people 85 and older grows from 260,000 today to some 675,000 by 2050.

Report co-author Robert Applebaum said Ohio has been taking steps for years to look ahead and improve availability of services for older residents. However, while state policymakers have made “substantial progress” since the first such aging population study was done 22 years ago, Ohio hasn’t seen anything like what’s ahead.

“The challenges in front of us are probably bigger than the challenges we’ve overcome,” he said.

The study projects that while Ohio’s overall population growth will be only about 2 percent from 2010 to 2030, the 60 and older population will grow by 47 percent and the population of people 85 and older by 46 percent. The state currently is about 14 percent 65 and older, and the projected 22 percent by 2032 will be about two percentage points higher than the nationwide older population, which is growing from the baby boomer generation.

A particular area of concern is that the number of older Ohioans with severe disabilities for physical and cognitive impairments is projected to jump 44 percent in just 15 years from 163,000 people in 2014.

Bonnie Burman, director of Ohio’s Department of Aging, said everyone benefits if the aging population is able to stay active instead of requiring services.

“Our goal has to be to help people understand that there are challenges and incredible opportunities,” she said, saying people who have helped build the state’s economy have much to offer from their knowledge, experience and wisdom.

“Yes, we want to be there as care needs change and we want to be supportive in every way possible, but our goal also is to embrace our elders and ensure that they continue to contribute to their communities, to thrive and to live very fulfilling lives,” Burman said.

She pointed to moves by the state to increase wellness among older people, such as a fall prevention initiative by the John Kasich administration called Steady U, making education and safeguards priorities to reduce high numbers of injuries, hospitalizations and deaths from falling.

The study found that Ohio has seen an expansion of home- and community-based programs, while successfully shifting older people from institutional to community-based settings. The study recommends that the state do more to make more use of technology and special home designs to help people remain independent. The study also stresses the need to make sure the state has a well-trained, sufficient direct-care workforce to meet rising needs.

The Associated Press obtained the study in advance of public release Monday.

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