May 22, 2024 - News

Advocate calls for more senior citizen resources as Arizona ages

Illustration of a butterfly resting on a cane

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Older adults will soon make up a larger share of Arizona's economy, electorate and population — and we'd be wise to start preparing our community for this generational shift, USAging CEO Sandy Markwood told Axios Phoenix.

The big picture: Americans are having fewer children and living longer.

  • By 2034, there will likely be more people in the U.S. over 64 than under 18, per the Census Bureau. Arizona is expected to track that trend.
  • By 2050, an estimated 26% of Arizonans will be 65 and older — up from about 18% now, according to USAging, a national nonprofit.

Why it matters: Arming senior citizens with the resources they need to live healthy and purposeful lives isn't just good for them — it's an economic win, Markwood said.

  • Healthy and engaged older adults tend to stay part of the labor market longer and have greater spending power.

Driving the news: Markwood will deliver the keynote speech at Phoenix's Area Agency on Aging's 50th anniversary event Wednesday.

  • The organization provides health, housing and other resources to senior citizens in Maricopa County and their caregivers.

What they're saying: "We should create not only good places to grow up but also good places to grow old," Markwood told us.

  • She encouraged cities to invest in housing options that account for the later stage of life, like backyard casitas for aging relatives or co-housing for senior roommates.
  • An array of transportation options — including buses and ride shares — are also imperative to making sure older adults can continue to reach their jobs, volunteer opportunities, families and community events after they stop driving, she said.

The bottom line: Perhaps more importantly, society needs to start embracing the experience older adults can bring to the workplace and community at large instead of pushing them into retirement and isolation, Markwood said.

  • "I'm hoping people start seeing the assets and opportunities of aging rather than the deficits of aging," she said.
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