Donít pull rug out from under elderly

By Observer editorial March 20, 2013 10:29 am

It’s no surprise to those who have lived in Northeast Oregon for long that the population on average is getting older. Even in La Grande, with all the youth and exuberance of Eastern Oregon University, census figures show the population as a whole is graying.

But we’re not alone. Across the United States, it is expected that by 2030, the number of people retired will rise from 12 percent to 20 percent. And that means more than a run on shuffleboards and rocking chairs.

What’s more, the median age in the United States was 37.2, according to the 2010 census. Just 20 years ago, it was 32.

The aging population means health care issues, already a lightning rod of debate, will be growing in importance. Health care is a huge expenditure for the United States and it may well increase as populations age and the girth of the average American grows ever wider.

Within health care, the fastest growing sector is elder care. With budgets under the microscope, and the mushrooming national debt, it’s important to cut the fat and review every program for efficiencies. Still, some programs need to be carefully nurtured such as building the eldercare workforce, and shoring up Medicare and Medicaid programs to ensure a safety net for the most vulnerable among us.

Yes, the challenge is huge. But this is a country that invented the modern democracy, that won the cold war and put a man on the moon.

The older population can do its part by adopting healthy lifestyles and keeping medical costs in check.