How will the aging of the population in Colorado affect the state budget? At the state/local level, the biggest impact on the budget is those who are 80 plus years old. This group more than doubles in the next 15 years. It is improbable that revenue available for senior services will keep up with this increase. In fact: a best case scenario is that funding increases by a modest amount.

The need is clear for new ideas and more efficiency in implementing existing programs.

There are many areas to consider. This article focuses on the burden of an unhealthy lifestyle. The studies are consistent in their conclusions. A healthy lifestyle has a significant impact in reducing the need for government assistance over one’s lifetime. This impact is realized at all ages, but becomes particularly significant for the aging population.

The graph depicts the typical impact of lifestyle on the last years of one’s life.

For most: no matter what your age it is not too late to take steps toward a healthier lifestyle.

There is an alternative opinion that those with a less healthy lifestyle die sooner, thereby costing the state/local governments less overall. But this analysis only considers a few costs, and does not consider the multitude of governments services provided. Additionally, it does not consider the benefit of healthy living for the individual during their lifetime. So, the goal is a healthy lifestyle for everyone – one that minimizes the need for government services.

The graph depicts the typical impact of lifestyle on the last years of one’s life. For those with a healthy lifestyle – they live an active, healthy life until the end, when their condition deteriorates and the end comes relatively quickly. For those who chose a less healthy lifestyle: their condition typically deteriorates progressively over time, and their demand for resources is significantly larger, and the limitations on health and an active life are significant.

Some major government services impacted by a healthy lifestyle: Less time in a nursing home, Less need for State/local provided services, Better planned “end of life” needs, Reduced need for prescription drugs, and Fewer medical procedures.

Action items to consider:

A less healthy lifestyle starts in preschool. A preschooler’s lifestyle choices are very likely to extend throughout one’s lifetime.

  • Actions starting at the preschool level will be money well spent and will have lasting benefits to the state budget.
  • Required classes for all grades on what constitutes a healthy lifestyle and how to achieve better results. (Children with healthy lifestyles probably learn much better than their peers who haven’t made good choices.)Better dietary meals provided by the schools. (There is a current program launched in 2010 – “Smarter Lunchrooms Movement” which is currently in about 30,000 schools. This has had very limited success. But failure is not an option and there must be ways to increase effectiveness. Recommendation b. above is one solution. It is not enough to just put healthy food on the plate. Kids need to understand why it is important.)
  • Summer program to provide meals to those who miss the benefits of meals provided by the schools.
  • Mandatory physical education classes in all schools and for all grades K-12.
  • Continual communication with the parents about lifestyle choices.

For all ages: More positive reinforcement by medical providers about the importance of lifestyle decisions.

Better, more frequent consultation with a dietician as part of any visit with a medical provider.

An ongoing, continual public relations campaign promoting healthy living.

There is always the issue of government infringement on the individual’s right to choose their own lifestyle. This is an important right, but does not give sufficient credence to the eventual cost to the government because of one’s lifestyle choices. You make a choice now, and taxpayers pay later.

Success has not been realized in the past. But, failure is not an option as the state/local governments solve the growing impact on budgets as a result of the aging population. Focus – at the state/local level, we must provide services for twice the 80 plus population with approximately the same funding available today. What are your solutions?

Ed Shackelford – REALTOR®
Real Living CO Properties –
President: Colorado Senior Lobby
Phone: 303-832-4535