History in Ithaca
Though nearly 50 percent of Ithaca’s population is between the ages of 20-34 according to the 2000 New York Census, the population of elderly people continues to increase. According to the US Census and the Cornell Program on Applied Demographics the population of citizens over 60 had nearly doubled from around 2,710 persons in 2000 to 5,113 persons in 2010. As of the 2016 Census, in Northwest Ithaca (the area near Trumansburg Rd) 50 percent of citizens living there are age 50 and over, with 28 percent being age 70 and over, compared to the national average of about 9.5 percent of people age 70 and over. Of course in other parts of Ithaca, such as Northeast Ithaca, there are more college students and education-related faculty so there is a lower percentage of elderly people in comparison with the population. However, if this trend of an increasingly elderly population continues, then we will find this area of need to be greatly more substantial in the coming years.
With this increase in an aging population comes an increase in challenges, such as job availability, limited funding, lack of transportation options, and a shortage of affordable housing.
As people get older, the job options become more limited. In a study conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Psychology and University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management in 2015, they concluded that older job-seekers have a harder time reentering the workplace after losing a job. They concluded that folks over 50 receive fewer job offers and are overall less likely to become re-employed. Moreover, according to U.S. government’s 2014 Displaced Worker Survey a person over 50’s job search is around 5.8 weeks longer than someone aged 30-49 and 10.9 weeks longer than someone aged 20–29. Furthermore, the odds of reemployment decrease by 2.6 percent for every one year increase in age. This is caused in part by the technological hurdles that older folks generally face. In a Needs Assessment study done by Tompkins County in 2012 of residents over 60, the likelihood of not having a computer at all increased with age, with respondents 85 and older indicating they do not have a computer at all. One identified need could be volunteering and teaching local folks how to navigate modern technology if they so desire.
Another hurdle the elderly population faces is lack of government funding that would help provide a higher quality of life, as the 2015 Strategic Plan for Aging in Tompkins County conducted by the Tompkins County Office for the Aging revealed. The report indicates, ”Many of the services that support the aging population and community in general are already operating with strained resources and limited funding. Not only do core programs need to be strengthened and sustained, they must be enhanced to meet current and future demands.” For this, some of the services that support the aging population could be assisted with volunteer work such as “creating opportunities for people to eat and socialize, listen to speakers, and obtain access to information and services;” “expanding intergenerational opportunities;” “using the younger generation as a resource for teaching older adults about technology and its uses;” or supporting mental health.
Other challenges seniors face are lack of transportation services and affordable housing, especially with college students inflating the living expenses in Ithaca. However, as the Tompkins County Office for the Aging noted, these are two problems that face all residents and not just the older generation.