Aging baby boomers boost Alaska's senior population; numbers stable in other age groups

Associated Press

Aging baby boomers are significantly boosting Alaska's senior population, while younger age groups are maintaining their numbers, according to the state Department of Labor.

Alaska's senior population — age 65 and older — in 2014 reached 71,080, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (http://bit.ly/1Deh20c).

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The number jumped by 3,388 between July 2013 and July 2014, according to the department.

Births and migration are filling in the lower ages, according to the department.

"Baby boomers had a lot of kids," said state demographer Eddie Hunsinger. "Echo boomers, or millennials, have been moving into their 20s and filling them in to a good degree. People are migrating at ages around early 20s to 40s, which are prime working and family-building ages, and are accounting for continued increases."

Alaska has more baby boomers in comparison to the overall population than anywhere in the Lower 48, Hunsinger said. Many moved north to take jobs between about 1970 and 1980,

Organizations serving seniors in Fairbanks are having trouble keeping up with the added numbers. The Fairbanks Senior Center provides meals and daily exercise classes and expects the senior population to triple by 2030.

"I think getting seniors to a salon for a haircut can be just as important as feeding them, but because of budget constraints, we have to choose," said director Darlene Supplee.

The Senior Center provides about 250 meals per day and has about 4,000 seniors in the exercise classes each year. The center provided about 40,000 meals in 2013, and Supplee is projecting 48,000 this year.

"The need will continue to grow as Baby Boomers age, and then it will eventually cap out," Supplee said.

The additional seniors could make Alaska more urban-centered and racially diverse.

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com