Knoxville (WVLT) - Baby boomers began turning 60 this year and are rapidly approaching retirement age.
A new report analyzing "The Maturing of America" finds less than half of the nation's communities have begun preparing to deal with the needs of the nation's elderly.
Places like the Knox County Office on Aging and the John T. O'Connor Senior Center have provided resources to the local senior citizen population for decades.
But with the number of people over age 65 expected to double from 2000 to 2030, are local hospitals prepared to provide health care?
"Because we know people are living longer. And they're healthier and living longer," says Barbara Blevins, Parkwest President and CAO.
With the number of people age 65 and older in the US expected to exceed 71 million in the next 25 years, the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging is asking communities to start preparing now.
That preparation has already begun at places like Parkwest Medical Center, which unveiled its new surgical suite specifically designed to help accommodate the area's growing senior citizen population on Thursday.
"We've been planning for this for quite some time, we realize baby boomers are living longer, they have more disposable income, their needs are going to be greater than maybe what we've seen in the past," says Blevins.
But this most recent study found only 46 percent of American communities have begun planning to address the needs of the exploding senior population.
In fact, in one-third of the communities surveyed, older adults don't have access to services such as health screenings, counseling on prescription drugs or health education.
With that in mind, when Parkwest Medical Center officials developed a long-term plan for the hospital, they decided it should include additional operating rooms like these, designated for cardiac and orthopedic surgery.
"So, one of the things we've done is we've expanded our surgery capacity here at Parkwest, for orthopedics, in particular, for cardiac, also. We know those are two service lines that are going to be very important to the baby boomers," Blevins says.
The report also analyzed communities' nutritional programs, transportation, public safety and emergency awareness and volunteer opportunities.
It found the US has much more to do to prepare for a graying population.
Noting some programs would cost a lot of money to develop, while others won't cost much at all.