An Aging Conundrum: Is San Antonio Ready for 2034?

By Patricia Mejia and Jane Paccione

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2034, older adults (65+) will outnumber children for the first time in our nation’s history. 

What does that mean for our city? With older adults making up 12 percent of the local population, what should we being doing now to ensure we are ready for this significant demographic shift? How do we make ours an age-inclusive community where older adults can thrive?

The San Antonio Area Foundation’s Successfully Aging and Living in San Antonio (SALSA) program teamed up with nonprofit research think tank Community Information Now for a new report, Bexar County Healthy Aging Snapshot Profile, intended to provide a common set of current measures to inform and strengthen the community’s work to enhance the quality of life for older adults in our area.  Indicators included: Falls, nutrition and diet, transportation, housing and cost of living, to name a few. 

Findings revealed that vis-à-vis the state of Texas, older adults in Bexar County:

  • Have a much lower median household income ($58,964 vs. $64,034) despite similar employment rates (18 percent vs. 20 percent).
  • Are less likely to own their home (75 percent vs. 79 percent), but more likely to have a mortgage (38 percent vs. 34 percent).
  • Are less likely to own a car (87 percent vs. 91 percent) but less likely to ask for transportation assistance (3 percent vs. 4 percent).

Unfortunately, the research revealed that data is lacking in many issues that are critical at the local level. The Frameworks Institute, a national nonprofit research organization that helps mission-driven organizations build public will for progressive change, explains that the public draws on a complex set of cultural models to make sense of aging and the role that older Americans play in our society. Their extensive research highlighted some of the central challenges involved in engaging the public in productive conversations about aging – ageism, stereotyping and prejudice among them.

SALSA was created to increase leadership, collaboration and funding to ensure older adults have access to transform our community by advancing practices and policies that improve the quality of life of older adults in Bexar County. The idea of collective impact is to have multiple parties: citizens, institutions, nonprofits, public and private sector working intentionally together to challenge us to see ourselves in aging and as a community benefit from the longevity dividend (people living longer lives).

While aging will look different for everyone, there are key common factors to consider:

Plan: What will you need for your future – your home, your family, community activities?

Engage: How will you want to remain connected and contribute through your work, volunteer or civic participation?

Access: How will you make your home improvements, modifications needed to age in place?

Connection: How will you maintain social activities and relationships to ensure you are not isolated?

The truth is we are all aging – let’s work at making older adults truly part of our community and recognize that the roadmap to 2034 is just as much ours as it is for those who raised us. 

Patricia Mejia is the Area Foundation’s Vice President for Community Engagement and Impact. Jane Paccione is the Area Foundation’s Managing Director for Collective Impact.