The graying of California: Opportunity or crisis?

The latest statistics show that, demographically the Golden State of California is beginning to look more like the Sunshine State as well as the Silver State. California's seniors, those over 65, are becoming a more dominant economic, social, financial and political force.        

The California Department of Finance projects than in just 11 years, 9 million of the state’s 44 million inhabitants will be senior citizens. That means that, by 2030, there will be 3 million more seniors than there are today making seniorhood the state's fastest growing population segment; more than the growth of child and working age populations.

In fact, the 21% of California's population that seniors will represent then, will be larger than Florida's (the Sunshine State); long considered to be the nation's foremost retirement state.

CALmatters, a non-profit, public interest news consortium, helped develop and analyzed much of the information.

Paul Kleyman, National Director of  the Journalists Network on Generations, is a veteran journalist on aging and an academician who said, "No one should be surprised at this and this has been anticipated for decades now."

For California, Kleyman says that is pointing the state to an important decision point. "It's really important to begin to adjust our systems to begin to look at older people as a tremendous resource that's under-utilized in our society," said Mr. Kleyman.

Overall, only 2% of California seniors are living in nursing homes. "They're a healthier, more capable population, many not wanting to work those long, grinding hours, but no wanting to retire to a rocking chair," said Kleyman.

Seven in 10 Californians, 60 or older, own their homes, many paid off, reducing the need or desire to move to less expensive states.  That's especially true with so many grown children now moving back in with their parents.  

Seniors present the state with a tremendous wealth of experienced and knowledgeable workers.

"A potential for a 'Silvercon Valley,'" said Kleyman. And, speaking of wealth: "The older population is also the most affluent population in America commanding about 80% of the discretionary spending income of the country," said Kleyman.

Nonetheless, many seniors need supplemental income. And so, with state and national employment at record lows, Kleyman says there's gold in all the silver hair.