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County leaders examine future needs of senior population



FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — It is no surprise to hear Forsyth County’s population is consistently growing, and with that comes a wider range of demographics.

Forsyth County’s population has increased five-fold from 44,000 in 1990 to over 224,000 today.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the number of residents 65 and older rose more than 3 percent over the past six years.

To examine the issue and its impact on the county’s future more closely, the Board of Commissioners commissioned Bleakly Advisory Group to study the senior demographic in the county.

Jonathan Gelber, with Bleakly Advisory Group, said the board was interested in figuring out how much growth it can expect in the next 20 years, how the generational profile of the county’s population is expected to change over that period, and how the housing market, public revenues and costs will be impacted.

Already, more than 600 people have participated in a countywide survey to provide their input on the future of senior issues. The county also held a public information meeting where another survey was distributed for feedback on the subject.

Once the demographic study is completed, the final draft will be posted on the county’s website.

Forsyth County’s demographic future is driven by four interlocking demographic trends:

1. Rapid population growth

2. Aging population

3. Uneven population distribution

4. Regional growth patterns

Strong population and household growth is expected to continue through 2040, Gelber said.

“Forsyth County’s growth forecast, adopted in the 2017 Comprehensive Plan, anticipates the addition of 137,000 residents over next 20 years,” he said. “Based on the Comprehensive Plan growth scenario, Forsyth can expect an average of 6,833 new residents annually by 2037.”

Currently, there are more than 26,000 residents over the age of 65, making up about 12 percent of the population. That group is expected to swell to more than 70,000 by 2040 and become 18 percent of the population. In total, the population is expected to increase from more than 220,000 currently to almost 400,000 by 2040.

“The combination of improved health, increasing lifespans and generational trends means that the share of the county’s population that is 65 or older is expected to increase significantly in coming decades,” Gelber said. “The baby boomers are aging into retirement. (Atlanta Regional Commission) forecasts estimate that older residents will become an increasingly larger share of the population over the next 25 years.”

However, Forsyth County’s population is unevenly skewed toward two age bands: 35-55 and their children, or 5-25. The older group will be moving into retirement over the next 30 years or so.

Compared to national age and generational distribution, the country tends to have larger groups of populations in the middle age section of young adults and adults.

Gelber said this may be attributed to high housing costs that lock out the elderly and young.

When equated to neighboring counties, Gelber said this region is growing rapidly, with the strongest growth near the major highways, including Ga. 400. New household growth is moving to the metro Atlanta outer suburban ring, he said.

There are roughly 75,000 households right now in the county, and that is expected to expand to about 126,500 households by 2037. For seniors, there is an expected growth of more than 22,000 households.

Gelber said “senior housing” is designated as accommodations that serve the physical, social and financial needs of residents aged 65 and over. The county has more than 2,000 residential units specifically marketed for or restricted to seniors.

“Most seniors live in ordinary houses or apartments,” he said. “Some seniors choose to move based on changing needs, desires, family circumstances, health or financial circumstances. This study looks at all housing options that serve seniors’ needs, not just those labeled as ‘senior housing.’”

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