Aging population presents challenges to state, nation.

By Kester Freeman and Megan Weis

Former S.C. Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, in an address before the S.C. General Assembly in March 2014, said: "The issue of aging is the central pubic health challenge of our lifetime."

That challenge is becoming clear. 2030 will mark a demographic turning point as all baby boomers will be older than 65. By 2035, older adults are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history, a trend that will be reflected in South Carolina. In 2017, there were 795,265 South Carolinians over the age of 65 in South Carolina; by 2030 this will increase to more than 1 million, or almost one in five residents.

These statistics from the U.S. Census and the S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs office are sobering but do not tell the entire story of the impact on the state and what can be done proactively to prepare. As shared by the U.S. Administration on Aging, nearly 70% of the elderly need long-term care services and supports (LTC) at some time during their lives. The effect of this demographic shift on the needs of residents, their caregivers and the state of South Carolina will be significant.

Public and private requests for LTC services will increase and our current system will be overwhelmed. Anyone with limitations caused by physical, cognitive or chronic health conditions may need regular assistance with various activities of daily living. The system also serves people with disabilities under age 65, many of whom need daily care to live as independently as possible.

Families, service providers, government agencies, advocates and people in the long-term care continuum envision an integrated, fiscally sustainable system of high-quality, accessible services. Recognizing the need to proactively prepare South Carolina for the coming "silver tsunami," the S.C. Institute of Medicine and Public Health established an LTC Taskforce in 2014. The taskforce included 65 service providers, researchers, advocates and agency representatives from across the state. Members explored a range of issues facing our statewide LTC system and worked to develop actionable recommendations to address some of the most critical needs.

In June 2015, IMPH released Creating Direction: A Guide for Improving Long-Term Care in South Carolina, a report that highlighted the urgency of addressing growing demands on family caregivers, public and private service providers, and government agencies over the next five years.

The taskforce's 30...

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