El­derly pop­u­la­tion is fastest-grow­ing in Mem­phis area

The Commercial Appeal - - Mlife - Tom Char­lier Mem­phis Com­mer­cial Ap­peal USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - TEN­NESSEE

He could be play­ing golf or check­ers, but Reuben Barnes de­cided to spend his re­tire­ment years re­dis­cov­er­ing the pas­time he fell in love with all way back in ju­nior high school: the­ater. On Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, the 75-year-old Barnes and other mem­bers of the drama en­sem­ble at the Orange Mound Com­mu­nity Ser­vices Cen­ter were busy pre­par­ing for their fi­nal pro­duc­tion of the year, an opera. It’s the kind of chal­lenge that helps them stay vi­tal.

“It keeps your mind go­ing,” Barnes said. “You’ve got to keep go­ing. You can’t just stay at home with the (TV) re­mote.”

In Orange Mound and across met­ro­pol­i­tan Mem­phis, the needs of se­niors are tak­ing on in­creas­ing im­por­tance as a tsunami-sized wave of res­i­dents reaches re­tire­ment age.

Be­tween 2010 and 2016, the num­ber of res­i­dents aged 65 and older in the nine-county Mem­phis met­ro­pol­i­tan area in­creased by 35,216, or 25 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to cen­sus es­ti­mates. That’s more than 10 times the over­all 2.3 per­cent pop­u­la­tion growth rate of the area.

While the be­low-65 pop­u­la­tion of the metro area barely changed dur­ing the six-year pe­riod, the num­ber of chil­dren under 18 years old ac­tu­ally dropped by 11,271, or 3.2 per­cent. The me­dian age for the metro area ticked up from 34.6 to 35.7 years, and the por­tion of the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion made up of se­niors rose from 10.6 per­cent to 13.1 per­cent.

Cer­tain ar­eas have higher con­cen­tra­tions of the el­derly, in­clud­ing Ger­man­town, where at least 19 per­cent of res­i­dents are over 65, and Bartlett, where se­niors make up 15.5 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion.

The el­derly pop­u­la­tion has been rapidly grow­ing across the U.S. as some 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 ev­ery day. But the in­crease lo­cally ex­ceeded the 21.7 per­cent growth na­tion­ally in the over-65 pop­u­la­tion be­tween 2010 and 2016.

Cou­pled with the stag­nant pop­u­la­tion growth among other age groups in the Mem­phis area, the sharp in­crease in the num­ber of el­derly res­i­dents will bring a mix of chal­lenges and ben­e­fits, lo­cal economists and of­fi­cials say.

With de­mand for med­i­cal ser­vices ris­ing, the older pop­u­la­tion will be good for the lo­cal health­care in­dus­try, said David Cis­cel, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of eco­nom­ics at the Univer­sity of Mem­phis. Se­niors also tend to pro­vide a sta­ble “base con­sump­tion” level that helps sup­port re­tail busi­nesses, he said.

But el­derly res­i­dents gen­er­ally aren’t as en­tre­pre­neur­ial or as sup­port­ive of ed­u­ca­tion im­prove­ments as other age groups, Cis­cel said.

“Pro­duc­tiv­ity and ed­u­ca­tion are not en­hanced, and con­se­quently eco­nomic growth is not en­hanced when you have an el­derly pop­u­la­tion,” he said.

Re­nee Fra­zier, CEO emer­i­tus of the Com­mon Ta­ble Health Alliance, said the area likely will face grow­ing short­ages of long-term care fa­cil­i­ties and other hous­ing for the el­derly.

“Mem­phis is so af­ford­able, boomers aren’t leav­ing. They’re stay­ing,” Fra­zier said.

Many long-term care fa­cil­i­ties have long wait­ing lists, said Shirley Bon­don, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Ag­ing Com­mis­sion of the Mid-South. She cited home­based health care and home-de­liv­ered meals as other needs that will in­crease with the el­derly pop­u­la­tion.

Rick Mas­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Plough Foun­da­tion, said the phi­lan­thropy con­ducted sur­veys and re­search that iden­ti­fied three main ar­eas of need among se­niors. The first is ba­sic nu­tri­tion.

“(Many se­niors) didn’t have any food around, and they couldn’t get out. They were eat­ing only one meal a day at most,” Mas­son said.

The other needs are be­ing able to safely stay in their homes and be­ing pro­tected from el­derly abuse. Over a four-year pe­riod, Plough poured $13 mil­lion into lo­cal pro­grams aimed at meet­ing those three ar­eas of need, he said.

“It was an is­sue that wasn’t be­ing ad­dressed,” he said of the chal­lenges fac­ing se­niors.

In the mean­time, se­nior cen­ters in places like Orange Mound and Bartlett are get­ting ever more use.

Can­dace Ward, fa­cil­ity man­ager at the Bartlett Se­nior Cen­ter, said that while the num­ber of mem­bers at the cen­ter has stayed fairly steady at around 1,600 in re­cent years, “we ex­pect it to grow.” The cen­ter has more than dou­bled the num­ber of ac­tiv­i­ties of­fered.

At the Orange Mound cen­ter, Joyce Dukes Shaw, founder and di­rec­tor of the drama en­sem­ble, marvels at the vigor and tal­ent of the group, whose mem­bers in­clude a for­mer Stax Records artist.

“We are ac­tive. The job is over, the chil­dren are gone. We’ve got time...,” Shaw said.

“You should see our pro­duc­tions – they’re off the chain.”

Reach Tom Char­lier at thomas.char­lier@com­mer­cial ap­peal.com or 901529-2572 and on Twit­ter at @thomas­r­char­lier.

Levi Robin­son, 71, right, keeps an eye on the the com­pe­ti­tion as he plays check­ers with Pre­ston Hurt.

Glo­ria Cof­fey, 73, and Joe Mor­ton, 77, take a turn around the floor at the Bartlett Se­nior Cen­ter dur­ing a se­niors dance.

Ginger Webb, 75, and James Webb, 79, take a turn around the floor at the Bartlett Se­nior Cen­ter dur­ing a se­niors dance. JIM WE­BER / THE COM­MER­CIAL AP­PEAL

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