Aging Baby Boomers: Economic, Political and Community Implications for Onondaga County

For communities to prosper, be economically sound and support vulnerable individuals, they will need to retain and engage aging baby boomers as significant, productive citizens and taxpayers.  All sectors – business, public, and service – have a stake in the aging of this diverse cohort and the opportunity to make changes that harness its significant human and economic resources.

Cities and surrounding suburbs have yet to embrace systematically the implications of the aging of baby boomers, the 78 million persons born from 1946 through 1964. In Onondaga County alone, there are 128,633 Boomers, or 27.5% of the county’s population. The need to plan for the impact of this cohort’s aging is of particular significance for mid-sized local governments and metropolitan areas that have already experienced substantial erosion of their population and economic base.  If you consider Onondaga County’s population of everyone born before 1964, there are 194,211 people in our county or 42.5% of the total Onondaga County population. That is significant.

F.O.C.U.S. is working on an information base that will create incentives for business, government, education and nonprofit community leaders in Onondaga County to give substantive attention to the cross-sector challenges and opportunities this cohort presents.  It will also raise awareness of this issue in the community and provide information to support local planning across sectors.

The financing of the nation’s public and private health insurance and pension systems captures much national attention. Likewise, state policymakers and local officials concerned with rising Medicaid budgets and the growing need for coordinated long-term care, are increasingly focused on issues related to an aging population. The potential implications for localities of the aging of the Boomers are no less important than the financing pressures their aging places on federal income and health security programs.  Yet, the economic and related cross-sector challenges and opportunities associated with population aging, and aging Boomers especially, have only begun to be addressed in metropolitan areas, regions that span core urban and surrounding suburban communities.

Studies are emerging related to the livability of communities for older persons, the potential resource aging boomers represent for communities and models for boomer engagement.  Steps have been taken to inform states and selected localities on the policy implications of aging boomers, particularly as they relate to health and human service costs.  Lacking, however, is information on the lifestyle and migratory decisions of aging baby boomers and the cross-sector impact such decisions will have on local economies, intergovernmental relations, educational institutions, support for public schools, community development, labor supply, as well as health and social services.  Also lacking is information about the extent to which – and the conditions under which – it will be beneficial for communities to influence the lifestyle, community engagement and migration decisions of baby boomers.

To inform and mobilize our local government, business and nonprofit sectors, F.O.C.U.S. plans to conduct the following activities.

  • Synthesize existing secondary data and studies to develop a demographic, economic and migratory profile of aging boomers in Onondaga County against which the future economic impact will be forecast for different scenarios of Boomer decision-making in regards to lifestyle, community engagement and migration.  Deliverable:  A report assessing  the impact of alternative Boomer lifestyle and migration scenarios on our community’s future.
  • Conduct local polling of Boomers on their attitudes, wants and expectations related to  their community of choice as they enter their retirement years; factors influencing their lifestyle and migratory decisions and the extent to which our community meets these standards.   Deliverable:  A report on the diversity of attitudes, wants and expectations within our community’s Boomer cohort .
  • Conduct key informant interviews with community leaders across sectors to determine whether (and how) the aging of the Boomer cohort is perceived as an issue and to elicit their reaction to the data described above.  Deliverable: Identify gaps in knowledge and perceived cross-sector approaches our community can take to fully engage the human and economic resources across the spectrum of Boomers.
  • Use project findings to engage citizens and decision-makers in identifying and integrating aging Boomer-directed strategies into existing and new community planning and economic development plans.

If you would like to be part of this project, please contact F.O.C.U.S.  at jcreighton@syrgov.net or 315-448-8732.

EVERYONE IS WELCOME

“A Sustainable Community requires linking together economic vitality, social equity, and environmental stewardship”

Thank you to Key Bank for supporting the F.O.C.U.S. Active Aging Project.