Eastern Shore con­tin­ues to age

Record Observer - - Senior Satellite - By JOSH BOLLINGER jbollinger@star­dem.com

EAS­TON — The Eastern Shore is ag­ing, and it’s go­ing to get even more gray, Dr. Memo Diriker said at the first Se­nior Sum­mit in Tal­bot County.

Diriker, the ex­ec­u­tive director of Sal­is­bury Univer­sity’s Busi­ness Eco­nomic and Com­mu­nity Out­reach Net­work (BEA­CON), pre­sented “GraySHORE: De­mo­graph­ics of Ag­ing on the Shore” at the Se­nior Sum­mit held June 9 at the Tal­bot Com­mu­nity Cen­ter.

The Eastern Shore’s pop­u­la­tion is col­lec­tively get­ting older — se­niors who are 60 years of age or older, Diriker said.

Diriker said he and BEA­CON first no­ticed the ag­ing pop­u­la­tion is­sue while study­ing data be­ing com­piled for the 1990 U.S. cen­sus. The per­cent­age of older adults on the Shore is pro­jected to in­crease over the next cou­ple of decades, which could leave a gap both in ser­vices for the el­derly and the econ­omy, he said.

“The ag­ing on the Shore was sud­denly jump­ing up,” Diriker said of the 1990 cen­sus data. “In­stead of it be­ing a 2 per­cent in­crease, it was in­creas­ing faster than any­body had, up to that point, thought it would do.”

The data made those at BEA­CON won­der if the Shore was ready for the changes that come with an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion. BEA­CON de­duced the Shore was not ready, he said, con­sid­er­ing the in­fra­struc­ture that was in place at the time — things like elder care, elder shel­ter and the econ­omy.

Diriker said through­out Mary­land the “up­per end of the ag­ing spec­trum is grow­ing,” be­cause peo­ple are liv­ing longer. But it doesn’t stop at liv­ing longer, he said.

Older adults from Cen­tral Mary­land and the Mid-At­lantic re­gion are mi­grat­ing to the Eastern Shore, he said.

Prior to the 2008 re­ces­sion, peo­ple who mi­grated to the Shore were able to sell their homes they bought many years ago and make a great profit, which brought money to the Shore when they mi­grated. They could buy a big­ger house and still have un­taxed money left over, Diriker said, but that slowed down dur­ing the re­ces­sion.

“When peo­ple from the Cen­tral Mary­land area or Mid-At­lantic area mi­grate here, they tend to be in­di­vid­u­als with higher ed­u­ca­tion than our av­er­ages down here, higher net worth, higher dis­pos­able in­come,” he said, later adding that they also tend to be more in­volved with other ac­tiv­i­ties or or­ga­ni­za­tions.

“In other words, these in­di­vid­u­als bring eco­nomic ca­pac­ity to the Shore when they come in,” he said. “How­ever, the flip side of that is, lo­cally, our eco­nomic ca­pac­ity has been de­clin­ing, es­pe­cially in in­fla­tion-ad­justed terms.”

Around 30 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tions of Kent, Tal­bot and Worces­ter coun­ties are aged 60 or older, ac­cord­ing to a chart pre­sented by Diriker on Thurs­day. Those coun­ties are the big mag­nets of in­mi­gra­tion of se­nior cit­i­zens, he said.

But the mi­gra­tion hasn’t ended, Diriker said, “it hasn’t even be­gun yet.”

There are more peo­ple aged 60 and over in Cen­tral Mary­land than there are on the Eastern Shore, but com­pared to the total pop­u­la­tion, the Shore has a higher per­cent­age. Those in Cen­tral Mary­land will be­gin to sell their homes at nice rates, and the Shore’s real es­tate cli­mate hasn’t risen yet, mean­ing more will come, Diriker said.

Diriker said many econ­o­mists agree that if one-third of the work­force is of re­tire­ment age, the econ­omy can­not be lo­cally sus­tained.

By 2020, some Shore coun­ties’ se­nior pop­u­la­tions, in­clud­ing Tal­bot, is pre­dicted to be more than one-third of the total pop­u­la­tion. By 2040, nearly 40 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tions in Kent and Tal­bot coun­ties is pre­dicted to be aged 60 years or older, he said. But, be­tween 2030 and 2040, the rate at which Shore coun­ties age will slow, he said.

As the Shore’s pop­u­la­tion ages, pres­sure on the sys­tem that pro­vides for the needs and wants of a pop­u­la­tion aged 60 and over in­creases, but the sys­tem and its re­sources aren’t chang­ing, Diriker said.

“They’re ac­tu­ally de­clin­ing ... so we are find­ing our­selves in the po­si­tion with more peo­ple, with more needs, more wants and less in terms of re­sources,” he said. “It’s tak­ing us to­wards a cri­sis.”

How­ever, Diriker said that “the beauty of the Eastern Shore” is that, his­tor­i­cally, its peo­ple have dis­cov­ered in­no­va­tive and out-of-the-box so­lu­tions to their prob­lems.

He said cre­ative so­lu­tions is what it’s go­ing to take to fix the ag­ing prob­lem, “be­cause there is no sce­nario out there that says the re­sources that we need are go­ing to be com­ing.”

The Se­nior Sum­mit 2016 was spon­sored by Tal­bot Com­mu­nity Con­nec­tions and the Tal­bot County De­part­ment of So­cial Ser­vices. It was de­signed with var­i­ous work­shops to give the area’s se­nior cit­i­zens an­swers to many of the ques­tions Diriker un­earthed in his pre­sen­ta­tion, and ex­plore more top­ics dis­cussed by other pre­sen­ters.

April Sharp, director of the Tal­bot County De­part­ment of So­cial Ser­vices, said Tal­bot County is pig­gy­back­ing off a statewide ini­tia­tive to deal with some of the prob­lems Diriker raised re­gard­ing the Shore’s ag­ing pop­u­la­tion.

“We are ex­pand­ing our part­ner­ships so that we can

look at unique ways to ex­pand the ... ser­vices for in­di­vid­u­als in our com­mu­nity who want to age in place,” Sharp said.

One ex­am­ple of that ini­tia­tive is the Tal­bot Vil­lage con­cept, which is still in its very be­gin­nings, she said.

The vil­lage con­cept brings peo­ple to­gether who live within a small vil­lage or a com­mu­nity who can help those who have ad­di­tional needs and who want to grow

older in their home.

“It can be as sim­ple as some­one who needs help chang­ing a light­bulb that they can’t safely reach any­more, to tak­ing some­body to the gro­cery store,” Sharp said.

One of the goals of the Tal­bot Se­nior Sum­mit was to bring peo­ple to­gether who may have some­thing to give back — cre­at­ing those part­ner­ships im­por­tant to aid with the ag­ing pop­u­la­tion is­sue.

PHOTO BY JOSH BOLLINGER

Dr. Memo Diriker speaks at the Se­nior Sum­mit 2016 on Thurs­day, June 9. The sum­mit was the first of its kind for Tal­bot County and fea­tured work­shops to ed­u­cate se­nior cit­i­zens and their chil­dren, care­givers, pro­fes­sion­als and con­cerned cit­i­zens about the is­sues se­niors face.

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