Mark Smith, a Mount Pleasant councilman and the new chair of the South Carolina Advisory Council on Aging, has some sobering statistics to share.
By 2030, the number of seniors in the Palmetto State is expected to double to 1.8 million.
And, if current trends continue, a lot of those will not be well off. Currently, over 10 percent live at risk of actual hunger, Smith said. Over 25 percent of those 85 years and older require institutional care, while more than one-third live on Social Security alone, some on as little as $710 a month.
Half of those 55 and older have less than $50,000 saved for retirement, and middle income residents are increasingly unable to support themselves due to the rising cost of health and long-term care.
Smith is taking his new role seriously after his election to a two-year term following three years as a member. The first board meeting with Smith at the helm took place Nov. 6.
“It is time for us to educate and advocate for the elderly to our elected officials so they know these issues are not going away - and the numbers are only going to grow,” Smith told Palmetto Business Daily.
Smith said the “gray tsunami” will strike South Carolina and other states.
One of Smith’s first orders of business was a meeting with Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster, which was scheduled well before it was announced that Gov. Nikki Haley was President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S Ambassador to the United Nations.
So Smith, and others, ended up in a meeting with the next governor of the state. It was encouraging, Smith said, that McMaster reaffirmed his commitment to the state’s strategic plan to tackle issues thrown up by a growing aging population and, more importantly, made a commitment to support caregivers.
Otherwise, Smith identified three areas he and the board are likely to concentrate during his term as chairman: transportation, housing, and community resources, particularly as they relate to those on low income.
“We want to work to make sure there is a better awareness of the many community resources services that are available, both public and private,” Smith said.
The issue of transportation, particularly public transportation is much trickier as “it does not even enter the conversation” in the more remote, rural areas of the state. And there is much work to be done even in urban areas, where stake holders are “still seeking ways to increase ridership and use.”
Smith was elected to Mount Pleasant Town Council in November 2013. He serves on the economic development and water supply committees. He also is a the council representative on Mount Pleasant Waterworks and the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.