The baby boomer generation is getting older. While this may not seem like a revelation to many, consider the more than 75 million people born in the post-World War II era between 1946 and 1964. They make up by far the largest generation in our country, and they are retiring at an increased rate.
We will all soon be seeing more Social Security benefits paid out, higher health care costs for geriatric care and a coming shortage of workers as the boomers retire.
The City of Tracy Tuesday voted to form a three-member senior steering committee to study senior issues. Council further approved $10,000 to pay for consultants to work with the committee. The group is expected to present a report in Jaunary based on issues discussed during two proposed town hall meetings.
In the debate prior to the vote, Mayor Brent Ives discussed the value of compiling a list of what Tracy seniors want from the city. Councilman Robert Rickman thought we should not pay outsiders to study what city staff and residents could easily tell us. Councilman Michael Maciel called the $10,000 a "necessary evil" to get quality information in a timely manner.
We support the city’s investment to understand the issues that face our community over the next 20 years, and $10,000 is only a drop in the bucket. Within the next two decades, almost 28 percent of Tracy’s current population will transition from middle age to senior citizen.
The issues that arise with an increasing senior population are not confined to a simple list of what people want. There are costs the city must factor in now or risk underserving almost a third of our population in the years to come.
Do we have to increase both the hours and routes of bus service? Is there enough programming for seniors? The Lolly Hanson Senior Center is already operating at capacity many days, and city staff members are forced to find other places to hold events.
Will there be enough affordable housing in the city for those on fixed incomes? Is there opportunity in the city for senior citizens to give back and participate? Is there enough cemetery space? Does the city have to do more to attract doctors to handle the increased health care demand?
The city needs to plan not solely for what seniors want but also for what they will need. The senior steering committee and $10,000 stipend for consultants should be just the beginning of what elected city leaders are willing to invest, not the measuring stick.
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