By Emily Le Coz | NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Mississippi is going gray.
The state’s population of residents aged 60-74 grew at a faster clip in the past decade than did any other age group, according to U.S. Census Bureau data in conjunction with a report on the aging released last week.
Mississippi’s 60-to-64-year-old population spiked 41.5 percent since the start of the century, and its 65-to-74-year-old group rose by 15.5 percent during the same period.
No other age category came close to those climbs, except the 45-to-54-year-old group, which rose by 15.2 percent. And of the seven age groups younger than that, five saw their numbers shrink.
“The census numbers reflect the aging of Mississippi’s baby boomers,” said Ronda Gooden, associate state director for communications for AARP Mississippi.
Baby boomers were born during the post-World War II era of 1946 through 1964, and the oldest of them now are entering their golden years.
The data on aging was compiled in conjunction with a report on the nation’s 65-and-older population, which grew at a faster rate between 2000 and 2010 than in any previous census. Nationally, senior citizens increased by 15.1 percent during this period.
In Mississippi, the 65-plus set grew by 10.7 percent. That’s versus the state’s overall population growth of 4.3 percent during the past decade. In Northeast Mississippi, that age group ballooned by 14.3 percent during that time.
“As larger numbers of males and females reach age 65 years and over, it becomes increasingly important to understand this population as well as the implications population aging has for various family, social and economic aspects of society,” the census report stated.
Those are issues closely studied by AARP Mississippi, which has been holding a series of conversations across the state about transportation, housing and the ability to age at home instead of at nursing or assisted-living facilities.
“It continues to be true that nine out of 10 older people want to stay in their homes for as long as possible,” Gooden said, “and AARP’s research shows that nine out of 10 people age 60-plus do precisely that.”
But many seniors will need outside help from organizations like the Three Rivers Area Agency on Aging. Serving an eight-county area in Northeast Mississippi, it provides a host of services like home-delivered meals, transportation, respite care and case management.
“The biggest thing it will do with us down the road, when it really hits, will increase waiting lists, because there won’t be the funds to provide all the services,” said Cleveland Joseph, TRAAA director. “The family will have to pick up some of the slack.”