The aging of our societies is one of the greatest success stories of the last one hundred years. However, with that success also come new long-term challenges and opportunities. Today, North Carolina is facing an extraordinary demographic makeover in the age of our population. The latest Prosperity Watch analysis from the NC Budget and Tax Center puts it like this:
“In less than two years, in 2019, our state will have a population with more people aged over 60 than under 17. Furthermore, between now and 2027, the proportion of the population aged 60 and over will only continue to grow – rising from 2.2 million to 2.8 million people, an increase of 28 percent.
Ten years ago, in 2007, a total of 31 counties in the state had more people aged over 60 than under 17. Since then, that number has more than doubled, and 78 counties now fit that description. However, what is most surprising is that this trend is not reversing anytime soon – by 2027, a total of 92 counties in North Carolina will have more people over 60 than under 17.”
That the state’s population is aging at this rapid pace requires policymakers and businesses across the state to plan and prepare while we still have the window of opportunity in front of us. If prudent planning in this area is accomplished we can minimize profound negative impacts on our economy and state budget in the coming years.
Policymakers must remember that government can have a constructive role in raising awareness about the implications of an aging society and engaging all sectors in preparing for the associated changes. As North Carolina continues to age here are three basic goals that should be accomplished in order for our state to thrive and be competitive in the coming years:
- First, we must enable older adults to remain independent and age in the place of their choice with appropriate services and supports that enable a healthy lifestyle. Protecting the safety and rights of older and vulnerable adults, and preventing their abuse, neglect and exploitation is vital.
- Second, we must ensure adequate investments today in the education of our children and their teachers in order to ensure the state’s workforce of tomorrow is prepared to lead in a complex and global economy.
- Third, we must realize that migration into our state will be needed in order for us to maintain a strong workforce that will help sustain the state’s economy in the coming years.
Luis A. Toledo is a Public Policy Analyst for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.