The wave of aging baby boomers coming down the pike — a “silver tsunami” — is likely to revolutionize the makeup of first-ring suburban communities like those in northeast Johnson County, says Gene Wilson, the retired senior vice president of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Wilson delivered the keynote speech at yesterday’s Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce Lunch ‘n Learn, noting that changing demographics were likely to present new challenges and opportunities to local business owners over the coming years.
Statistics show that Missouri and Kansas are among the states with the largest aging populations – an attribute common to areas without coastline.
“How many of your kids want to live in California or somewhere on the coasts?” Wilson asked. “Young people often don’t want to stay here, so they leave, which means we have higher numbers of older citizens.”
Wilson noted that inner-ring suburbs like Prairie Village where housing was abundant and affordable after World War II, can become NORCs — or “naturally occurring retirement communities.”
“People have lived in these areas for decades, and they don’t leave,” he said.
The result for businesses, Wilson noted, is an opportunity to provide services that allow seniors to stay in their own homes or to maintain a sense of independence. Local governments, he said, must closely examine the services they provide to keep seniors in mind. The goal is to create communities where seniors can age in a healthy environment.
“The goal is to go from vigor to hospice, and skip the bad steps in the middle,” he said.