WAILUKU - U.S. census demographic data for Hawaii released earlier this month confirmed what many Maui County residents already knew: We're getting older.
People over age 65 made up 12.8 percent of the county's population in 2010, up from 11.4 percent a decade earlier. And that growth is definitely going to accelerate with a wave of aging baby boomers. Census data showed that the biggest population increase over the past decade was in adults just shy of retirement age - people between the ages of 55 and 64 made up 13.9 percent of the population in 2010, a whopping 5 point increase over the past decade.
The data, collected in 2000 and 2010, was released by the U.S. Census Bureau and compiled by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
Tony Krieg, chief executive officer of Hale Makua, said the data confirmed "a trend we've known for some time."
"Hawaii has one of the fastest-aging populations in the country," he said.
Maui County's total population grew to 154,924 over the past decade, an increase of almost 20.8 percent.
That's much faster than the state as a whole, which grew only 12.3 percent, to 1.3 million people, over the same period. The data also reflected Maui's construction boom, with a 24.6 percent increase in housing units over the decade, for a total of 70,492 homes by 2010. By comparison, the state as a whole saw a 12.8 percent increase in housing units.
Racially, Maui remained the most Caucasian county in the state, with 34.4 percent of residents describing themselves as white in 2010, compared to 24.7 percent statewide.
That's a slight increase from 2000, when 33.9 percent of Maui residents were white. Over the same period, people describing themselves as Asian decreased from 31 to 28.8 percent in Maui County, while Native Hawaiians decreased from 8.9 to 7.4 percent.
Hispanics or Latinos were the fastest-growing ethnic group, increasing from 7.8 percent of the population in 2000 to 10.1 percent last year.
While the population may be aging, Maui may be making strides at preparing for it. Krieg said the shortage of long-term care beds that appeared to be a crisis 10 years ago has turned into a surplus.
"We now have beds that are empty, which is a total turnaround," he said.
One reason may be government incentives and better insurance coverage to provide services for elderly patients at home. But economics is probably also a factor, he said, noting that families may have a harder time paying for nursing home care and may also regard an older person's Social Security and pension payments as a needed source of income during a difficult time for the whole family.
"I think, when unemployment starts to drop, we'll see more elders outside the family again," he said.
* Ilima Loomis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.