Photo by John Schreiber.

An organization studying a strategic plan for Orange County seniors Monday released a report stating that the population of residents 65 and older is the only demographic expanding in the county.

About 457,000, or 14.3% of the county’s population is 65 and older, but by 2045 that should increase to 17.3%, according to the Orange County Strategic Plan for Aging, an organization made up of nonprofits and local governments.

The organization warns in its report that, “It is going to take a significant infusion of resources, infrastructure and funding to care for our growing senior population. To move forward, we must have regular communication and coordination between organizations serving seniors.”

While the population of seniors rises, the population of other age groups are expected to decline.

Anaheim leads the county’s cities with 36,758 seniors, followed by Huntington Beach with 31,995, and Santa Ana with 26,355.

Cities with the highest percentage of seniors are Laguna Woods with 81%, Seal Beach with 38% and Villa Park with 27.40%.

One of the challenges facing seniors in Orange County is having enough food to eat, according to the report. As of 2016-17, nearly one-third of low-income seniors were characterized as “food insecure.” The organization reported that less than 3% of those seniors were enrolled in a county-operated government entitlement program for them called CalFresh.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death for seniors in the country, but it is the third-leading cause of death in Orange County, and it’s the only cause of death increasing here, according to the report.

The 12% rate of Alzheimer’s diagnoses for older adults in Orange County is higher than the state average of 10.5% and national average of 11.3%.

About 19.6%, or 95,000, Orange County seniors were diagnosed as obese in 2016 and only 36.3% regularly walk or exercise, according to the report. From 2013 through 2016, 27% dined on fast food twice or more a week.

Financial abuse is the most common type of abuse Orange County seniors fall prey to, according to the report. From 2016 through 2017, there were 12,000 reports of abuse or neglect of seniors in Orange County.

Affordable housing was another issue cited in the report. Officials say housing should not exceed 30% of income, but Orange County seniors are paying 44%.

“The cost of living in Orange County is among the highest in the state,” according to the report. “For older adults on a fixed income, the growing cost of housing, medical, and other basic expenses present a challenge that is often followed with worsened physical and mental health.”

Of 239,853 residential units occupied by seniors, 75.9% are owner-occupied and 24.1% are renter-occupied, according to the report.

“Between the four Public Housing Authorities in OC (County of Orange, Cities of Anaheim, Santa Ana, and Garden Grove), there are 89,736 people on the waitlist for 22,187 Section 8 vouchers,” according to the report. “New home and rental units under construction are only at 16.6% and 44% of total demand, respectively.”

Between 2003 and 2014, only 55.7% of the housing that is needed for the population project has been constructed, according to the report.

As of 2015, the median age of Orange County transients was 50, higher than the county median age of 37.8, which the study says indicated an aging trend among the homeless. Seniors make up about 7.1 % of the county’s homeless population with 81.9% of them disabled.

The organization recommended creating a county-wide database network similar to the Community Information Exchange that would improve work between health providers and community-based groups.

The organization also endorsed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call for a statewide master plan for aging.

“We hope this report becomes a resourceful tool that encourages the community to start having conversations and planning for the future with older adults in mind,” the report reads.

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