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Big Changes Coming for OR Demographics

November 20, 2009

PORTLAND, Ore. - Oregonians over age 60 are a bigger and more diverse group than ever before, according to U.S. Census data. This week, at an Aging and Diversity forum in Portland, participants learned that, by 2050, half of Oregon will be made up of racial minorities, and that rural Oregon is poorer, and also aging faster, than the urban parts of the state.

Bonnie Cramer, national board member for AARP, says those figures will translate to changing health care needs.

"There are tremendous differences in the quality of health care among people of different races and different incomes - we're talking about low incomes versus more-adequate incomes - as well as different genders. These factors have a direct impact on care-giving."

Oregon has been a national leader in programs to help people remain in their homes and communities as they age. Despite the changing demographics and the state budget crunch, Cheryl Miller, executive director of the Oregon Home Care Commission, says that goal hasn't changed.

"Hearing all the different programs that folks are engaged in, we're really ahead of the game. People are making advances. They're thinking about what's going to happen. They're looking at ways to end some of these health disparities."

There are more than 10,000 licensed home care providers in Oregon and, unlike many states, Miller says there hasn't been a care-giving shortage in most areas. At the forum, participants also heard that poverty and state service cutbacks are the biggest challenges facing the state's senior population. Almost one in five Oregonians is age 60 or older.



Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR