Tuesday, February 12, 2019

In Maine, the most rural state, deaths outnumber births; the only other state with that demographic is West Virginia

In Maine, the nation's most rural state in population percentage (61.3%), seniors account for a rapidly increasing share of the population; demographers say the trend has reached a tipping point.

"As baby boomers head into retirement, and many young people move away in search of opportunity, Maine is one of only two states, along with West Virginia, where deaths now outnumber births," Brian MacQuarrie reports for The Boston Globe. "That gulf is reshaping life here in myriad ways, from shrinking the workforce to intensifying the demand for services for the elderly, and it will only widen in the coming years, demographers predict.

Maine already has more seniors than minors, partly because of rising life expectancy and falling fertility rates: the statewide median age is 44.7;  the national average is 38. By 2026 the number of seniors (65 and older) is expected to increase another 37 percent from the 2016 level, while all other age groups are forecast to decline, MacQuarrie reports.

Portland Press Herald chart
The state's lopsided demographics are already causing headaches for employers as they struggle to fill jobs from a labor pool that isn't growing -- especially in the health-care industry, a primary need of seniors. Local taxes are increasing, sometimes because of the need to fund programs for seniors, MacQuarrie reports. Because many seniors are no longer able to drive, figuring out transportation is an important issue for local leaders, as well as food, isolation, and access to cellphone and internet service.

"We’re definitely under the gun,” Jessica Maurer, executive director of the Maine Council on Aging, told MacQuarrie. "It’s a mixed bag, because there’s obviously really good news in that we’re living longer than ever. But we haven’t done a good job of planning for what’s next."

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