BLUEFIELD — By 2030, more than 70 million Americans, one in every five, will be 65 years old and older, twice the number in 2000, according to the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.
That will create a more taxing demand for services, the organization says, a demand agencies are already struggling to meet.
For much of Southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia, that 20 percent of the population milestone has already been reached, creating problems in several areas of need.
All counties in the region have a higher percentage of the population 65 and older than in 2010, most seeing a 2 to almost 5 percent jump, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
For example, Mercer County’s 65 and over population in 2010 was 18 percent of the total population. The 2016 estimate was 20.6 percent.
The highest jump was in Bland County, from 17.4 percent to 22 percent. Buchanan County saw a large rise too, from 16.1 percent to 20.7 percent from 2010 to 2016.
In McDowell County, the increase was from 16.5 percent to 19.8 percent and in Monroe County the percentage jumped from 19.6 to 23.6. That 23.6 percent, almost one out of every four people 65 and over, was the highest of any county in the region and near the top in the state.
Raleigh County saw a jump from 16.1 percent in 2010 to 19.4 percent in 2016.
As a comparison, West Virginia’s overall percentage of those 65 and over was 18.8 in 2016 while Virginia’s stood at 14.6 percent and nationwide it was 15.6 percent.
Only Florida, which has a huge number of retirees, and Maine have higher percentages of that age range population than West Virginia.
Robert E. Roswell, commissioner of the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services, said an associated problem with the aging population is the rising ages of people actually seeking services.
People are generally considered…