Eastern Shore continues to age
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.
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.