Silver tsunami: Alaska's senior population is rapidly growing

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — The Alaska Commission on Aging says the state has the fastest growing population of people over 65 and is estimated to double by 2042.

Duane Mayes with the Division of Senior & Disabilities Service says currently, there are about 130,000 Alaskans over the age of 65.

Becky Aftreth, a visitor of the Senior Activity Center, says she keeps her mind and body sharp by volunteering and participating in the senior center's fitness classes, but that later-life care is a concern.

"This is an expensive state to stay and age," Aftreth said. "It's four or five times as expensive as other states."

In 2017, the median cost in a nursing home in Alaska was $292,000 per year compared to the national median cost of $97,455 per year, according to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey.
The median cost for an assisted living home is $72,000 per year in Alaska compared to a median of $45,000 per year in the United States.

Meanwhile, Mayes says the rapid growth of the aging population brings with it specific needs.

"In the next 12 years, from 2030 we will see a growth from anywhere from 4 to 6 percent per year in these populations," Mayes said.

One solution is shifting the model of in-home care to support unpaid family members who are caregivers and help seniors stay at home longer.

Theresa Brisky, the executive administrator at Marlow Manor Assisted Living and President of Assisted Living Alaska says in-home care is not always an option for many Alaskans needing a higher level of care or do not have help from family.

Brisky says over 90 percent of Alaskans in assisted living homes have dementia or a cognitive disorder and need a higher level of care.

Assisted living professionals urge Alaskans to consider options early about saving for care and looking at what assistance they might qualify for.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the cost of an assisted living home. The cost quoted was for a nursing home. The version has been edited to correctly reflect the cost of a nursing home and the cost of an assisted living home.

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