Retirement redefined: Number of Anoka County seniors expected to grow

The number of senior citizens in Anoka County and throughout Minnesota is on the rise.

And it’s expected to rise at unprecedented rates between now and 2035.

In fact, according to projections by the Minnesota State Demographic Center’s June 2007 report, Anoka County’s population age 55 and older totaled 58,028 in 2005. That number is expected to rise to 132,480 by 2035.

The face of Anoka County will be changing and that will require the community to work together in new ways to meet residents’ changing needs.

Tom Gillaspy, former Minnesota state demographer who retired earlier this year, discussed the changing face of Anoka County and Minnesota with those attending the Compassion Action Network’s fall faith forum held in Coon Rapids in late October.

He told those gathered that the change in demographics will produce a great opportunity.

“We have the opportunity to build a different type of society and a different type of economy,” Gillaspy said.

According to Gillaspy, the changes in Minnesota’s demographics, which are similar to those nationally, are changes “humans have never experienced.”

Among the population changes impacting Minnesota as a whole, between now and 2035, the state’s population over the age of 65 will more than double, while the population under age 65 will only grow 10 percent, according to the June 2007 Minnesota State Demographic Center projections.

The study also says that between 2005 and 2035, the population of oldest Minnesotans will go up by 125 percent or almost 770,000. More than half of the population growth between now and 2035 will be attributable to gains in the older population.

Anoka County is expected to see some of the largest gains in the state, according to the June 2007 projections. Similar large growth in older populations are expected to occur in Hennepin and Dakota counties as well.

Gains in the number of residents age 85 and older is expected to more than quadruple in Anoka, Dakota, Isanti, Scott, Sherburne, Washington and Wright counties.

Specifically in Anoka County, the population age 85 and older was 2,933 in 2005. It is projected by the Minnesota State Demographic Center to grow to 12,000 in 2035.

In this decade, Gillaspy said, Minnesota will add as many people over 65 as it has in the last four decades.

By 2020, he said, there will be more people 65 and older than there will be of school age.

With the aging population, there will also be changes necessary in the housing market, with an emphasis on universal building design, which will allow people to stay in their homes.

There will also be a need to have housing that is accessible to health care, shopping and churches.

“We might as well start building it now,” Gillaspy said.

With an increase in the number of retirees, there will also be a dramatic slowing of labor force growth.

Retirees can provide new opportunities to become involved in the community, Gillaspy said.

This could provide an opportunity for retirees to volunteer in schools, helping children and reducing some school expenses.

“It’s a win, win, win situation,” he said.

To learn about preparing for long-term care needs, click here.

Senior resources available in Anoka County

• Senior Information Line: 763-783-4707 or
• Anoka County Senior Social Work Services, 763-422-7070
• Anoka County Family Caregiver Connection (formerly known as the Senior Caregiver Network), 763-422-6960
• Anoka County Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), 763-422-7090
• Anoka County Community Health and Environmental Services, 763-422-6970
• Anoka County Economic Assistance, 763-422-7246

More information on additional services for seniors, including a downloadable resource guide, is available at

Kelly Johnson is at [email protected]