BY Paul Groessel
Sun POST Newspapers
Add another iceberg to the metaphorical seaway.
“An iceberg” is the metaphor Hennepin County Human Services Area Director Todd Monson used when referring to systematic impacts of an aging population during a North Hennepin Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon March 13 in Brooklyn Park.
From 2009-2011, the county studied baby boomer issues in study called the Aging Initiative, which covered demographics, health, housing, transportation and income. The county reviewed research, analyzed data and held focus groups to better understand the county’s changing demographics and its long-term impacts.
The intent of the county’s reporting is to help public bodies form public policies that take these demographic changes into account.
“This is not a red-light emergency,” Monson said. “… This is an iceberg.”
There it was — behind the 45- to 64-year-old category bars on a county population chart — a little graphic of an iceberg. According to this chart, the baby boomer iceberg represented 26.5 percent of the county’s population of 1.15 million people, as of 2010.
Monson and Kathy Rogers, a program manager with Hennepin County’s Human Services and Public Health Department, laid out a complex landscape.
In Monson’s opinion, two of the most startling facts from the study were the number of baby boomers who have medical issues and the number of people who lack retirement savings.
Four main health issues or conditions cropped up in the Aging Initiative study:
• Diabetes or sugar disease
• Heart attack, angina, stroke
• Hypertension or high blood pressure
• High blood cholesterol
“Literally over half the population of boomers … have one of these four conditions,” Monson said.
Specifically, more than 60 percent of 56- to 64-year-old Hennepin County residents have one at least one of those four conditions, while 80 percent of people age 65 or older have at least one of them.
“That and savings are the worrisome things for me,” Monson said.
The worrisome savings thing?
“According to a 2012 survey, 51 percent of workers over the age of 55 have less than $50,000 saved for retirement,” the county’s presentation said.
These are several of the considerations being made when determining the long-term effects of an aging population, how it impacts commerce, transportation, housing needs, property values, taxation and the overall economy, according to Monson and Rogers.
Some start small. Roger Vang, chief financial officer at Diversified Plastics, said his company has been doing various wellness programs for its 50-some employees since 2007.
“For a small company, we do a number of things,” Vang said after attending the luncheon.
The company has a workout area at its Minneapolis site, and participates in the Frosty Challenge, he said, which incentivize participants to maintain their weight during the hibernation-prone winter months. Some company employes also partake in the Step To It Challenge, a friendly exercise competition among area communities.
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