The Times West Virginian

February 22, 2013

Businesses serving seniors in state expected to show growth

Times West Virginian

— Experts predict growth for West Virginia’s economy.

That’s how the headline on the story read. And, if true, this is news that the Mountain State has been awaiting since 2008.

Most people have been living below their standards for far too long now. It’s been a long time since prosperity has reigned.

The State Journal, the business newspaper for West Virginia, pointed out that the state ranks third in the nation relative to the median age. And it ranks as the second oldest in terms of individuals aged 65 or older. And these figures are related to the manner in which West Virginia is expected to prosper.

The aging population — the senior citizens among us — demands certain things from the economy, such as health care and financial services, according to Paul Speaker, an associate professor of finance in West Virginia University’s College of Business and Economics. And both of these sectors are expected to grow over the next five years.

Speaker points out that the state has had very steady growth in the health-care sector in terms of jobs, and that trend is expected to continue. The sector grows at about 2 percent annually.

Health-care jobs typically pay more than the minimum wage, and the wage scale is expected to climb. Speaker noted that health-care jobs are anticipated to take the gross state product from its current 9.12 percent to 9.66 percent by 2017.

Another way the state can help the aging population is by expanding the professional business services sector, primarily financial services. Workers need help in planning their retirement, and it stands to reason that seniors could use similar services.

State officials have long predicted a growth in Medicaid costs, and in anticipation of those rising costs, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin last year asked state agencies to cut 7.5 percent from their budgets. While West Virginia has closed the gap in terms of per capita income, this does affect how much federal money the state’s Medicaid program will receive.

Despite the rising costs in Medicaid, businesses that serve the senior population of the state are expected to prosper. If this helps the state economy grow, and it should, so be it. We’re still at the point where we need all the help we can get.