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Baby boomers create silver tsunami

July 17, 2012

The aging of roughly 77 million baby boomers will send a silver tsunami over all aspects of business, including health care, finance, real estate, education and workforce development.

The first set of boomers turned 65 last year, with more than 57,000 becoming eligible for Medicare in Arizona. That number already is increasing dramatically, with more than 74,000 becoming eligible in Arizona this year.

“A lot more people are turning 65 than in previous years,” said Jim Chang, state demographer for the Office of Employment & Population at the Arizona Department of Administration, which compiled the data. “That will continue for many, many years. We should get used to this.”

An estimated one in five Americans will be 65 or older by 2030.

In 2010, Maricopa County had 848,934 baby boomers and Pinal County had 82,648, according to data compiled by the state Demographer’s Office. The entire state of Arizona had 1.48 million baby boomers at the 2010 census.

The baby boomer set has had a huge impact during every stage of its existence, said Michael Birt, director of sustainable health at Arizona State University and interim co-director of the Biodesign Institute.

A boomer himself, Birt remembers growing up in classrooms with 50 students.
“There were just so many kids,” he said. “There was a huge ramp-up of schools to be able to accommodate all those kids.”

Then, when they reached college age, universities had to do the same types of ramp-ups. And now, it will be hospitals and other health providers that will feel the biggest brunt of an aging population.

“Now the question is: What’s it going to do to the other industries?” Birt said. “Everything from finance — what are the retirement vehicles that boomers will have? — to housing. With people being underwater on their mortgages, that’s having an impact.”

Boomers also are going back to school, which will have a second wave of impact on colleges, he said.

Before the recession, experts worried that the aging boomer population would create a huge gap in employment. They figured there wouldn’t be enough younger employees to fill their spots as they retired. However, because of the economy, many are working longer than expected.

In addition, millions of boomers are looking for meaningful ways to contribute to their communities, using skills and talents they have acquired over a lifetime, said Judy Jolley Mohraz, president and CEO of the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust.

As a result, the organization is launching the Piper Trust Encore Prize to recognize nonprofits that engage the talents of people 50 and older. Piper will award up to three $5,000 prizes. In addition, one of the three winners may receive a $50,000 “Encore Enhancement Prize” to expand the nonprofit’s use of “encore” talent.

“We want to honor the organizations that involve older adults,” Mohraz said.
Ten thousand people are turning 60 every day across the country, she said.

“There is an emerging, new stage of life that is not the frail and feeble,” she said. “It’s not middle age, but it’s this active older age that some people are calling the Third Act. Individuals may have stepped down from one career, but may be interested in another or interested in very active engagement in the community.”

She said baby boomers are accustomed to reshaping American institutions and will continue to do so.

“I think a lot of institutions are waking up to realize that this is a tremendously powerful market segment,” she said.

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Media contact:
Joe Caspermeyer
joseph.caspermeyer@asu.edu
480-727-0369

Reprinted with permission from the Phoenix Business Journal

Originally Published in Phoenix Business Journal: Friday, July 6, 2012
Author: Angela Gonzales, Senior Reporter

Angela Gonzales covers health, biotech and education for the Business Journal.

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