An aging population presents challenges in care

Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 7:19 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - “Worldwide, we have the oldest and fasted-growing aging population in three centuries,” Darlene Supplee, the executive director of the Fairbanks Senior Center, said. “They are called Baby Boomers.”

The United States has an aging population. Alaska is at the forefront of this increase, with a senior growth rate of over 68 percent. This creates a rising local demand for caregivers, who can be difficult to find.

“We have vast retirement happening out of job markets and we don’t have the population behind it to fill the jobs that they are leaving, and the Baby Boomers have the nerve to create jobs as they retire, and it is all in the healthcare industry,” Supplee explained. “We do not have a populace behind the retirement of ‘normal’ linesmen jobs, doctors, nurses - and we do not have enough populace to fill the need of jobs that are being generated in the healthcare field to care for an aging population.”

According to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Fairbanks North Star Borough has 1,800 people over the age of 80. It is projected to have over 5,000 by the year 2030.

However, the borough currently has a total of 310 beds in assisted living facilities.

“We’re never going to be able to build our way out of this,” Supplee stated. “There are 4,000 [people] 60 and older that live in Goldstream alone.”

A partial solution is bringing care to people in their own homes.

“Pioneers are genuinely stubborn. They built our community, and they want to remain in the home they have been living in all these years. So, services out. We need to be able to assist with services out,” Supplee said.

This includes operations such as Meals on Wheels and Helping Hands Home Modifications that make it easier for seniors to remain in their homes in comfort and safety.

If you are interested in volunteering with seniors in our community, please contact the Fairbanks Senior Center at (907) 452-1735.