VIRGINIA OFTEN does well in surveys that rank the states on key economic issues. That’s particularly good news in a new study that ranks Virginia 12th among the states in regard to seniors having a positive impact on a state’s economy.

The study, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and compiled by the website seniorliving.org, breaks down how seniors either contribute to or present a burden to their states’ economies. It considers the factors of employment, healthcare and income.

The scenario works like this: The longer seniors work, the less dependent they are on Medicare for their healthcare and on Social Security as a sole source of income. They are also less likely to require help from social services agencies.



Since seniors who work are, obviously, able to work, the question becomes whether they’re working because they need to, or because they want to.

AARP, which keeps up with these trends nationally, found that half of today’s 60-year-olds intend to work until age 70, while one in five doesn’t ever expect to retire. Some feel it’s a necessity to make ends meet, while others just like the extra cash or want to stay engaged with the working world. Some looked forward to retirement, but found themselves bored, especially if their spouses continue to work.

Whatever the reason, the fact that older Virginians are remaining in the workforce longer is good for Virginia’s economy, and it’s easy to see why. Currently, about 14.6 percent of Virginia’s population is 65 and up. If you include the 55-64 age group, the number almost doubles to 27.7 percent. The longer they continue to contribute, the better it is for the economy.

Projections for Virginia indicate the number of younger seniors will decline as the baby boomer generation ages. The result is that the number of seniors 75 and up in Virginia will continue to increase through 2040.

The seniorliving.org study found that Virginia is the only state in the South (if you don’t count Texas) whose seniors have a positive impact on the economy, and one of only four in the Mid-Atlantic where they record a positive impact. Though there are stark disparities across the state, Virginians’ overall wealth, education and access to health care help add more quality years to their lives, allowing them to work longer and live independently longer than seniors in most states.

Specifically, the factors that give Virginia an advantage are:

42 percent of seniors 60 and up have a household income of at least $60,000;

31.5 percent of seniors 60 and up are in the workforce;

Only 55 percent of seniors 55 and up depend on Medicare for their health insurance.

By comparison, West Virginia is dead last (51st) on the list (which includes Washington, D.C.) because its numbers are, respectively, 24 percent with income $60,000 or higher; 21.8 percent in the workforce; and, 63 percent who are covered by Medicare.

Though the actual numbers and impact are harder to track, AARP has found that seniors who volunteer reap some of the same benefits as those who are working for pay, such as staying active and engaged, avoiding depression, and maintaining their physical health longer. The services they provide as volunteers can also lessen the burden—and budgets—for the organizations and agencies that would otherwise be called upon.

A good reason retirees may choose to remain in Virginia is the tax bite, according to seniorliving.org. Virginia doesn’t tax Social Security income, and its overall marginal tax rate is a relatively low 5 percent.

And while Virginia has some of the attributes that draw seniors to the Sun Belt states, it also provides distinct changes of season that many people like—not to mention its ocean-to-mountains geography.

If more seniors find themselves better able to remain contributors longer in Virginia than do their counterparts in other states, there’s nothing wrong with that. They’ve earned the right to live as they want and do as they please.

opinion@freelancestar.com

Twitter: @FLS_Opinion

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