Older adult population in the U.S. have grown by 34.2% during the past decade. West Virginia ranks third in the nation with 20.5% of its population aged 65 or older. The majority of older adults in West Virginia are women, and they are at higher risk of economic insecurity compared to men.
Health care and housing are the largest expenses for West Virginia older adults and Social Security is the sole income source for approximately 33% of our seniors. West Virginia seniors also cope with risk factors including social isolation, fall risk, food insecurity, lack of access to broadband, transportation access, medical care access, cognitive changes, and caregiving support.
West Virginia’s health care workforce is insufficient in size and scope for the medical, behavioral, and social care needs of the growing older adult population. Existing workforce shortages in physicians, nurses, social workers, and caregiving workers will be exacerbated by the increasing number of older adults living longer and with greater chronic care needs. What does that mean for the economy, our living environments, and health care system? What will it mean for those senior citizens who want to continue to lead healthy happy productive and independent lives? While these challenges are significant, they create significant opportunities for West Virginia to become a leader in research, practice and community-building focused on healthy aging.
- Are there novel medical solutions and interventions that we can pilot that lead to healthy aging?
- How do we model a senior living community that allows for independence, access to cultural events, and outdoor recreational opportunities in a vibrant college town?
- How can we shift the negative stereotypes associated with aging and more fully value the wisdom and experience that comes from living a long life?
- How can we foster a health care workforce that is prepared in size and scope to support the health and social needs of older adults?
- What big ideas can help make lasting change for the well-being of older adults in West Virginia?
- How do we make working on this topic interesting for young people? Are there new career opportunities?