If there’s anything the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, it’s that there’s a drastic need for careful coordination among public agencies. Networking and smooth communications are crucial when lives are at stake.
Jon Weizenbaum is a member of the AARP Texas Executive Council. He is a health and human services consultant with more than 36 years of experience in public policy and state government leadership, including as commissioner of the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services. Weizenbaum served as policy director for the Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
While the pandemic will one day be behind us, Texas will still face a mounting need for a coordinating body to manage the needs of our state’s fast-growing population of seniors.
As the leading voice on behalf of the age-50-plus population, AARP Texas, with 2.3 million members statewide, is asking the Legislature to establish a statewide Aging Coordinating Council to ensure a strategic statewide approach to the growing aging population.
There’s an acute need for action. Texas is rapidly evolving from a state with a younger population to one that will be much more dominated by older persons. Already, the 65+ population is the fastest-growing segment of Texas’ population. And we’re just getting started. Between 2020 and 2030, the number of new older Texans will increase by nearly 3 million individuals, which is more than the population of 15 states and the District of Columbia.
It’s past time that we begin earnestly preparing for this demographic shift. In just 10 years, the first Baby Boomers will reach age 85 — an age when a person’s health care use is at its peak and when many older adults are more likely to need help with daily activities. The demand for essential services and support for older persons will increase. And already, there’s a shortage of health care providers and long-term caregivers. Absent specific interventions, these gaps will widen.
But it would be flat wrong to presume that an older population is a dark outcome for our state. Just the opposite. There’s an absolute sunny side to this shift. The economy itself will benefit. According to studies by AARP, the economic contribution of the age-50-plus population in this country will triple by 2050. Older persons will be major drivers of our spending habits — and Texas’ fast-growing older population will be at the center of these economic waves.
Texans age 50-plus also will continue to be major contributors in a vast number of ways, including as volunteers, innovators and experienced thought leaders. Older Texans will flourish and shape our state in wonderful ways.
The creation by the Legislature of a statewide Aging Coordinating Council borrows from the recent-years’ success of the Statewide Behavioral Health Coordinating Council, which broke down silos to better address mental health and substance abuse needs. A similar approach with an Aging Coordinating Council should quickly get underway as we face our certain future as an older and better Texas.