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Gray Is Gold: Older Michiganders Flex Economic Muscle

Older Michiganders contribute to the state's economy at a rate higher than their percentage of the population, according to a new report. Credit: finance/morguefile.com
Older Michiganders contribute to the state's economy at a rate higher than their percentage of the population, according to a new report. Credit: finance/morguefile.com
August 21, 2015

LANSING, Mich. - They've been called a burden or a drain on the economy, but according to a recent report, older Michiganders have much more economic clout than many believe.

AARP's Longevity Economy Report shows that households headed by those age 50 and older contribute to the state's economy to the tune of $203 billion per year, or 47 percent of the state's gross domestic product. That's especially noteworthy, said Mark Hornbeck, AARP Michigan communications director, since that group only makes up 36 percent of the state's population.

"Too often, debates over public policy have viewed older Michiganders as a problem rather than an opportunity, as a population of less active people who take rather than contribute to the economy," he said, "and I think these numbers clearly show that that is not the case."

The report, prepared for the AARP by Oxford Economics, also found that older Michiganders are twice as likely to start businesses than those age 25 to 49, and represent one-third of the state's workforce.

Hornbeck said it's a safe bet that the trend will continue, since it's estimated that by 2030, one-third of the state's residents will be age 55 or older. That's why he believes it makes fiscal sense to support this demographic, rather than to take from it.

"Given these numbers, gray is gold," he said, "and so it doesn't make sense from a state policy standpoint to lower the income of people in this age group."

While the report does point to the economic impact of this demographic, Hornbeck said it's important to note that many older Michiganders still face a tough road.

"It's still harder for some of these folks to get by," he said, "and it's certainly tougher for them to find good-paying jobs that provide pensions or allow them to save for retirement, especially if they lose jobs in their older years."

Sixty-nine percent of Michigan voters age 50 and older report that their income is falling behind the cost of living, according to AARP.

The report is online at aarp.org.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI