Health and Family Services Cabinet
Statewide elder readiness survey results released; Kentuckians say communities aren’t actively planning for aging baby boomers
Results of a statewide survey show most Kentuckians are aware that the aging of the baby boomers (people currently age 43-61) will bring major changes to their communities – but they don’t think their communities are actively planning for what has been called a pending “demographic tsunami.”
That’s among the key findings from the Kentucky Elder Readiness Initiative survey of 9,600 households across the state conducted this summer. The survey is the latest phase of the initiative announced by Governor Ernie Fletcher in 2005 to raise awareness of the impending elder population boom. The first wave of baby boomers turned 60 last year.
The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services partnered with the University of Kentucky Graduate Center for Gerontology and the state’s 15 Area Agencies on Aging to conduct research and promote KERI findings as a means to stimulate local and statewide activity to address the pending challenges and opportunities posed by the aging of the baby boom generation. Regional results were presented at a recently concluded series of 15 forums across the state.
"In the final analysis of the KERI survey, it’s clear that both the state and local communities have much work ahead to prepare for the baby boomers reaching their senior years," said Governor Fletcher. "The project continues to raise awareness of these issues and to serve as a valuable planning tool for communities."
"We’ve traveled to every part of Kentucky over the past couple of months to bring area-specific results to the people of Kentucky," Secretary Birdwhistell said. "Since the project began two years ago, we have definitely witnessed an increased awareness of these issues and, as a result of KERI, community leaders actively planning for a senior-friendly Kentucky."
Focus groups and community forums were held during phase one of KERI to gather feedback used to develop the phase two survey. Responses to the survey were analyzed to measure interest, expectations and perceptions about programs and services for aging residents and aging in general.
Other statewide findings from KERI survey include:
§ Kentucky is home to nearly 673,000 residents age 60 and older, representing almost 17 percent of the population. Estimates predict that by the year 2030, 1.3 million Kentuckians will be in this age group and make up about 26 percent of the total state population. A significant proportion of this increase can be attributed to the aging of the baby boomer generation, which currently consists of about 1.2 million residents.
§ Statewide, survey respondents said they believe the aging of the baby boomers will have a negative effect on transportation, housing, funding for services, government policies, health care delivery, caregiving for elders and tax revenues. By contrast, most Kentuckians believe the aging of the state population will have a positive effect on employment, environmental design and aging services.
§ Approximately half of baby boomers (47 percent) and two-thirds of older adults (age 62 and older) plan to rely on Social Security as a major source of retirement income. Just more than one-third of both baby boomers and older adults said savings and investment plans funded 100 percent by employer contributions, like pensions and retirement accounts, will be a major source of their retirement income. Survey analysts said this suggests a continuing high level of reliance on the Social Security system.
§ A significant portion of those surveyed said their communities do have public transportation. At the same time, 55 percent of baby boomers and 44 percent of older adults surveyed said their public transportation needs will increase as they age. Providing public transportation services, especially in rural communities, is already a significant challenge and meeting this challenge is likely to become more difficult in the future, according to survey analysts.
§ Most Kentuckians expect to live at home as they age. When asked where they expect to live at age 75, 77 percent of baby boomers and 86 percent of older adults said they expect to live at home. However, the percentage of baby boomers and older adults who expect to live at home at age 90 drops to 29 percent and 37 percent, respectively.
Although historically, living in a relative’s residence has been considered an option for elders as they grow frail, the vast majority of Kentuckians now consider living with a relative as they age a last resort. Only 2 percent of respondents to this question expect to live with a relative at age 75, and about 8 percent said they expect to live with a relative at age 90.
A surprisingly high percentage of baby boomers (22 percent) and older adults (21 percent) expect to live in a nursing home at age 90. Survey analysts said this high response rate differs from current national trends toward fewer elders residing in nursing homes.
About one quarter of baby boomers (23 percent) and 21 percent of older adults expect to live in assisted living facilities when they are 90 and older. Survey analysts said this finding clearly indicates the demand will significantly increase for affordable variations of this increasingly popular elder housing option.
§ Given 14 quality-of-life resources to choose from, a clear majority of respondents chose churches, spiritual groups and other religious organizations as the most important to them, far outpacing the next most frequent responses, large grocery stores and shopping centers. The extreme importance placed on the faith community as a measure of life quality reinforced findings from previous focus groups that revealed faith-based organizations as a potential resource for addressing a variety of needs and opportunities as the population ages.
§ More than 30,000 older Kentuckians are raising approximately 70,000 of their grandchildren and other related children. Reinforcing a major current concern in Kentucky with developing support programs and services for these child caregivers, 58 percent of baby boomers and older adults ranked developing programs to support grandparents raising grandchildren as a very important issue for communities to address in preparing for coming growth in the aging population. Baby boomers and older adults also expressed widespread concern about providing long-term support for people with disabilities and their aging caregivers, currently an issue receiving attention from private and public sectors in Kentucky and nationally.
The content of the KERI survey was based on input gathered at regional focus groups and community forums during phase one of the initiative. Survey questions addressed concerns raised by a broad array of consumers and service providers, public and private interests and advocates. Data from KERI regional surveys can be viewed at http://chfs.ky.gov/agencies/os/dail/kerisurveyreports.htm.