- The Washington Times - Monday, January 17, 2005

A spike in the senior citizen population this decade is giving some members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors gray hair as they evaluate spending priorities.

U.S. Census Bureau figures for 2003 show that Fairfax County has nearly 83,000 residents older than 65. And the county projects a senior population of 116,437 by 2010, based on figures from the Virginia Employment Commission.

“A lot of this has to do with the baby-boom generation heading into that age group,” said Fairfax County demographer Anne Cahill. “It’s not a surprising trend, because we know the baby boomers are aging.”

Even so, elected officials say a 40 percent increase in the senior population this decade is a big shift for county tax dollars and services.

“A lot of the people reaching 65 are electing to stay in the community. They are not electing to go to Florida and play golf,” said Gerald E. Connolly, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors.

“That’s a very welcome development, but it’s going to have profound challenges for the county’s future,” Mr. Connolly said.

“It has a huge implication for service delivery,” said county Supervisor Dana Kauffman, adding that baby boomers have a reputation for being demanding.

When it comes to services, Mr. Kauffman said seniors have a right to complain. Senior services made up 1.7 percent of the general-fund spending in the county’s $4.5 billion budget last year.

But although Fairfax has a range of services, there are often long waiting lists. Adult day care programs are nearing capacity.

“Public transportation is very important,” said Jack Wyatt, a member of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees who has lived in the county nearly four decades. “Already some of our members can’t come unless someone brings them.”

Calvin Martin, 79, of Annandale, said he wants safer intersections with longer pedestrian lights for seniors trying to cross with canes.

Mr. Connolly said there is a big difference between the service needs of families with children in schools versus seniors.

Schools consume 53 percent of the budget, making them the county’s most expensive item. Mr. Connolly said it appears that most seniors are not resentful of that spending because good schools keep property values high.

“Seniors benefit from that, and they know that,” Mr. Connolly said.

“Our young people need their education. I don’t begrudge that at all,” said Margaret Hall, a resident of Annandale for 46 years.

Mr. Martin agreed, saying he complains about property taxes but that living overseas for 26 years with the Foreign Service had showed him what happens when countries don’t invest in education.

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