Building a North Carolina for the Future

LivingPower September/October 2023

By Tim O’Connell

Much of this legislative season has focused on a few key policy areas but none more than healthcare and education. As the debate on various bills related to these topics filled the lawmakers’ calendars, North Carolina received the nation’s topic ranking for its business climate by CNBC for the second year in a row. This pinnacle of recognition provides a vantage point to look back to understand how we earned this ranking and simultaneously look forward to how we must use it to shape our future — a future that includes a dramatic change in our population.

The NC Office of State Budget and Management data shows that over the next 15 years, the population of those over 65 will swell to 2.7 million. That is 1 million more than the current number in this age group. To give context to this number, imagine every single person living in Cumberland County, Mecklenburg County, and Wake County as 65 or older. Returning to the state’s top business ranking, there are many to thank for this status: our lawmakers over the decades, entrepreneurial innovators, small business owners, and you, as a retired government employee, who laid the foundation during your working career. The roads you built, the students you educated, the communities you protected, the workforce training programs you delivered, the parks and recreation programs you provided, the economic development you fostered, the healthcare services you administered, the building permits you issued, and on and on, making North Carolina an attractive option for businesses to thrive.

In his book North Carolina Beyond the Connected Age: The Tarheel State in 2050, economist Mike Walden provides a budgetarily descriptive view of a potential “generational clash” between funding education for our youth and funding the healthcare needed to serve the increased demand for North Carolina’s over-65 population. Clearly, as successful as North Carolina is in business, it has the opportunity to lead the nation in successfully educating its younger people and successfully providing care for its older population. We are fortunate to live in a state where leading industries are healthcare, pharmaceutical research, education, and technology — giving our political leaders, government entities, and business communities a head start in bringing resources together to address this future, with much less chance of a “clash” if we so choose.

You now have an important role in advocating for this future with your elected leaders and potential supporting agencies. I encourage you all to familiarize yourself and get involved with the NC Division of Aging and Adult Services’ comprehensive initiative called All Ages, All Stages NC: A Roadmap for Aging and Living Well. Key areas of the plan include Strengthening Communities for a Lifetime, Optimizing Healthcare, Supporting Older Adults and Their Families, and Affording Aging. All of these areas are ones that NCRGEA directly or indirectly supports and lobbies for on your behalf at the legislature.

I invite you to visit the website for All Ages, All Stages NC to find more details, including how to easily fill out an online form to join a stakeholder workgroup.

You were an integral part of building North Carolina into what it is today. Now you have an opportunity to continue that building by contributing your wisdom and expertise as you advocate for North Carolina’s future.

NCDHHS Joins Allies Nationwide in Acknowledgement of Ageism Awareness Day

Press Release/ October 2023

All Ages, All Stages NC logo

For the first time, North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services is joining with the American Society on Aging to acknowledge the newly established Ageism Awareness Day on Oct. 7, 2023. Modeled after the United Nation’s International Day of Older Persons, Ageism Awareness Day provides an opportunity to draw attention to the existence and impact of ageism in our society.

NCDHHS is hosting a virtual webinar event on Oct. 5 at 10 a.m. to help bring attention to the existence and impact of ageism in our society. To learn how to reframe aging in our communities, join the virtual Zoom event online.

The most widespread and socially accepted form of prejudice, ageism is defined by the World Health Organization as “the stereotypes (how we think), prejudices (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) towards others or oneself based on age.”

“Ageism hurts us all. Getting older is something to celebrate — we have to learn to find joy in every stage of our lives,” said Joyce Massey-Smith, Director of the NCDHHS Division of Aging and Adult Services. “Older people are one of North Carolina’s greatest natural resources, and we are one of the most age-friendly states in the country. We are committed to honoring people of all ages through initiatives such as All Ages, All Stages NC and through our collective efforts, we will continue to stand up for older North Carolinians in the face of ageism.”

North Carolina has seen significant demographic changes in the 21st century, with a national ranking of 9th in population aged 65 and older. In 2021, one in six people in North Carolina were over the age of 65. That number represents 1.8 million adults, or 17% of the total population, in North Carolina. By 2031, there will be more individuals aged 65 and older than children under 18 in the state, according to the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics.

“We live in an aging society, which is a wonderful, remarkable thing,” says ASA’s Interim President Leanne Clark-Shirley. “But too many of us view aging with fear, denial and even hostility. We are all growing older. We can’t afford to limit ourselves and other people with such negative and harmful views, and why would we want to? Let’s lean into the opportunities, diversity and full range of experiences that come with aging.”

Evidence shows ageism is widespread in society and can be found everywhere, from our workplaces and health systems to stereotypes we see on TV, advertising and in the media:

  • There are many forms of ageism, including internalized, cultural, implicit and benevolent
  • Ageism decreases quality of life and can shorten lifespan by 7.5 years
  • Although it is universal, people do not always take ageism as seriously as they do other forms of inequity
  • Ageism intersects with, and exacerbates, all other discriminatory “isms”
  • In the media, underrepresented older adults most often reflect negative stereotypes
  • According to the United Nations, on a global scale, one in two people are ageist