Growing Hawaii elderly population shows need for services

Markets Associated Press

Hawaii's elderly population is growing, increasing the need for more caregivers and nursing homes.

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Those 65 and older made up 17.1 percent of Hawaii's 1.4 million residents in 2016, according to U.S. census data, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser newspaper reported Monday.

The portion of the population that's 65 and older grew 25 percent from April 1, 2010, to July 1, 2016, while Hawaii's total population grew 5 percent over that same period.

The trend is expected to continue as baby boomers age.

"We need more nursing homes," state Chief Economist Eugene Tian said. "In the future — we're talking 10 years to 20 years — the industry in the state will be developed. We'll need a lot of those facilities."

But seniors generally want to stay at home instead of in costly nursing homes, said Craig Gima, spokesman for AARP Hawaii.

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A semiprivate room in a Hawaii nursing home is nearly $130,000 a year, AARP said. The cost of about 44 hours a week of home health care ranges from $54,912 for a homemaker to $57,772 for a home health aide.

But AARP expects there to be fewer caregivers for those needing care, with the ratio shrinking from 3-to-1 in 2030 to 2-to-1 in 2050.

"Hawaii needs to do more to promote home care and communities where people can age at home," Gima said.

The organization is working on building communities that allow seniors to stay independent longer.

AARP also wants to help older people with financial security and plan cities to be "age-friendly" as seniors live longer, Gima said. Cities where seniors are able to live on their own have better public transit and safe and walkable communities where drug stores, grocery stores and parks are easier to access, Gima said.

Hawaii's aging population fits with the national trend. Those 65 and older accounted for 15.2 percent of the total U.S. population.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com