CINCINNATI — While Ohio's population growth has been nearly flat, the number of residents 65 and older has increased at a rate of nearly 8 percent, according to a study released Wednesday that underscores the growing need for senior services.
The study by Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University found that Ohio's 65-and-older population is 14.3 percent of its 11.4 million people, after growing 7.6 percent in the decade ending 2010. That's up 1 percent from a decade earlier. The state's median age increased from 36 to 38.
Nationally, 13 percent of the population is 65 and older. The Gerontology Center study is based on analysis of U.S. Census and Ohio demographic reports.
The Ohio Department of Aging's director, Bonnie Kantor-Burman, said in a statement that the report shows "we must make bold, sweeping changes now to prepare to serve our growing and changing population."
The aging of the Baby Boomer generation and longer life spans help contribute to the rising 65-and-older population. The report shows that Ohio counties are using senior services levies, with the largest in Franklin and Hamilton counties, to help provide in-home help aimed at enabling older residents to age in their own homes.
Delaware County, near Columbus, had an 83 percent increase in the number of people at least 65 years old from 2000 to 2010, the report states.
"I'm not surprised at all. That's just the continuation of a trend," said Bob Horrocks, executive director of the Council for Older Adults in Delaware County. "We see it continuing for the next decade."
Delaware has been Ohio's fastest-growing county overall, and Horrocks said some seniors move into the county to be close to family members who have moved there during its growth boom. Horrocks said the county's senior services levy and federal, state and other grants have helped keep up with needs for in-home help, meals on wheels and senior center activities and services for the older population.
Cuyahoga County in the Cleveland area and Hamilton County in the Cincinnati area saw declines in their 65-and-older populations. Researchers say older people moved to the Sun Belt communities or to nearby Ohio counties for housing or communities better suited to retirement lifestyles. Warren, Clermont and Butler counties, all growing suburban areas neighboring Hamilton County, saw big jumps in 65-and-older populations, led by Warren's 54 percent rise.
Carin Caravella, 66, said Wednesday she's getting ready to join the 65-and-over exodus from Hamilton County. Caravella ran a construction and renovation company before the recession hit but had to shut it down. She has been seeking work for months. She doesn't have any pension or retirement savings to help her get by, so she needs to find a job.
"There's nothing here," she said. "I know I'm not the only person looking for a job. It's been too long."
Many counties in the mostly rural Appalachian region also have higher-than-national older populations, with out-migration by younger people causing the percentage to rise. Washington County, for example, lost population overall while its 65 and older population increased by 14.1 percent.
Online: Ohio Aging Map