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Sonoma County has a population of adults 60 and older at 136,987 residents, or 28%, making it the second “oldest” county in the Bay Area, according to census data released this week in the United States of America 2010.
Of the nine counties in the Bay Area, only Marin has a larger proportion of the population over 60, 29.6%. With Napa at 27%, older residents become one of the most prominent age groups in the North Bay.
Without question, a rapidly aging county will pose significant challenges to the local health care system and county social services, aspects of which are geared toward a much smaller population.
“We’re ill-prepared for an aging population, and it’s already showing in our community,” said Shirlee Zane, a former Sonoma County supervisor and longtime lead advocate.
Zane said regional challenges include providing adequate and timely health services, adapting transportation systems to address reduced mobility, and providing more recreational opportunities for older adults.
The population data released this week is part of the Census Bureau’s 2020 census and the first to be released since 2021. The population counts include age, race, gender, ethnicity and household ownership.
The 60+ age category is significant because it includes the youngest of the aging Baby Boomers, who will turn 60 next year. Zane said there is a challenge among Boomers, many of whom are “in denial that they are getting older.”
The data also shows that Sonoma County’s aging population is outpacing the state and the nation.
More than two decades ago, the number of Sonoma County residents age 60 and older was 74,614, or 16.3% of the population according to the 2000 Census. A decade later, for the 2010 Census, that number rose to 99,553 residents, or 20.6. %.
By 2020, that age has reached 136,987 residents, an 84% increase over the past two decades.
The proportion of white county residents with a median age of 52.6, that is 60 or older, is now nearly 39%. Only 10% of Latino residents in Sonoma County are 60 or older.
The median age of Latino county residents is 29.6, while the median ages of Native American, African American, and Asian residents are 34.1, 35.9, and 41, respectively.
Such a rapidly aging population has the potential to severely strain the local health system, said Dr. Charlotte Carlson, a geriatrician with the Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation.
He founded Carlson Grove in Sutter, a comprehensive geriatric primary care facility operated by Sutter in Santa Rosa and San Mateo. Carlson, who created the Santa Rosa clinic and is still a pilot, said the current health care model serves a much smaller population.
Staff writer Martin Espinoza can be reached at 707-521-5213 or [email protected]. On Twitter @pressreno.