BILLINGS, Mont. -- The average age of the American population is increasing at a rapid rate. This age wave has become a growing concern right here in Yellowstone County. Tom Schlotterback with St. John's United says by 2035, there will likely be more citizens over the age of 65 than children under the age of 18.
Tom Schlotterback with St. John's United says seniors may run out of money because people are living healthy lives longer, and Medicaid won't always cover all costs required for care.
Schlotterback says, "It's what some have called the compressed morbidity. So these people are living longer, living well, but they reach a point where frailty begins to set in and they're going to need more care and they're going to need resources for that care. It's very expensive once people become frail to take care of all of their needs, and this is becoming a growing challenge and you see this here in Yellowstone County and we see this here right at St. Johns United."
With the average age of the population increasing, another concern is how businesses will fill jobs in the workforce.
Karen Baumgart from the Big Sky Economic Development Council says, "The Montana Chambers Economic Update called it the 'silver tsunami' that is happening to our state. So really for Yellowstone County we're projected to have about 42,000 positions exiting the workforce so retirements exiting out of the workforce over the next ten years. That's a big chunk of our workforce right now in our population. Usually that's fine if you have that incoming talent to fill those positions, but we don't right now."
Baumgart says the Big Sky Economic Development Council is coming up with strategies to deal with the age gap. On a local level, that includes hiring high school career coaches, advertising positions in Yellowstone County, and taking advantage of underutilized talent pools such as veterans, immigrants, and Native Americans. Baumgart says this will also help local community development by having a more inclusive and diverse workforce.