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Published: Wednesday, 3/14/2012

Over-65 numbers decline in Lucas Co.

But age group gains percentage, study says

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The number of Lucas County residents aged 65 and older has declined along with the rest of the county's population, but the proportion of that age group increased to 13.3 percent of the populace overall in 2010, Miami University research shows.

Throughout the rest of northwest Ohio, meanwhile, the number of residents aged 65 and older has jumped. So has the percentage of people aged 65 and older overall, a trend occurring throughout most of Ohio, according to the the university's Scripps Gerontology Center.

In many counties, such as Lucas, the population overall is shifting to other parts of the state or out of Ohio, said Shala Mehdizadeh, senior research scholar at the center.

But research by Ms. Mehdizadeh and others with the center shows Ohio's population is getting older more rapidly than the nation's overall because younger people are moving out of the state for jobs, Ms. Mehdizadeh said. That is most evident in southeast Ohio, researchers said.

By early May, the Scripps Gerontology Center will begin putting county-specific interactive data online about disabilities, income levels, and other information that will be especially useful for agencies working with elderly people, researchers said. The center was founded in 1922 to study population problems before it began its focus on aging.

"We're very excited about this project because it really builds on our heritage," said Suzanne Kunkel, center director and one of the researchers.

Such data help the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio Inc. plan its programming and services for seniors, especially since finances are tighter with a $1.8 million loss in non-Medicaid government funding this year, said Justin Moor, vice president of planning and program development for the agency.

Lucas County, for example, had a 17.6 percent jump in the proportion of people aged 85 and older between 2000 and 2010, Mr. Moor noted. That spike was even higher at 39.7 percent in Erie County, 31 percent in Defiance County, and 25.5 percent in Fulton County, which are among communities served by the agency, he said.

The state has a trend of younger, recently retired seniors moving to Florida and other warm-weather states but returning to be near family and friends when they get older and need more help, Mr. Moor said.

Those are the seniors who need the most assistance from the agency to stay in their homes too, he said.

"They will typically need the largest amount of care and usually the most expensive care when they're older and frailer," Mr. Moor said.

At nearly 57,807 people in 2010, a 2.7 percent drop from 2000, Lucas County continues to have the largest number of people aged 65 and older in northwest Ohio, according to the Miami University research.

Lucas was the only county in northwest Ohio that had a decline in the 65-and-older population between 2000 and 2010, it shows.

Ottawa County, meanwhile, had the largest increase in the number of people aged 65 and older at 17.3 percent, to 7,868, between 2000 and 2010, according to the research.

That means 19.3 percent of Ottawa County residents were 65 and older in 2010, the highest proportion in northwest Ohio, it shows.

Statewide, there were 1.6 million residents aged 65 and older in 2010, a 7.6 percent increase from 2000 and 14.3 percent of the total population.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at: jmckinnon@theblade.com or 419-724-6087.



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