Aging Population Factor for Future

Local officials throughout the Ohio Valley are being reminded of a growing challenge – aging populations that will affect both services needed in the future are resources to provide them.

Those reminders are coming as municipalities and counties on both sides of the Ohio River update comprehensive plans. Those are detailed road maps to guide officials in planning for the future.

Brooke County’s Planning Commission just finished work on a comprehensive plan, noting one of the biggest differences between the current version and older plans is demographics. In Brooke County, analysts found 19.9 percent of the population is 65 years of age or older.

Every county in this region – Brooke, Hancock, Ohio, Marshall, Wetzel and Tyler in West Virginia and Jefferson, Belmont, Monroe and Harrison in Ohio – has substantially higher 65-and-over populations than their states in general.

What that means for municipal, county and public school officials is that different types of public services will be required in the future. For example, older populations often mean lower school enrollment but more interest in quality health care. They also can mean less support for property tax levies older residents believe are not in their direct interests.

Many local officials already are adjusting strategies for the future to take aging populations into account.

Changing demographics also make it vital that economic development be made a top priority – to provide new jobs that keep younger people from leaving the region.