Recently released Census Data ranks Iowa as the fifth oldest state in the country. The director of the Iowa Department on Aging, Donna Harvey says being a state with a graying population does present its own challenges. She says as people age they often have increased needs healthwise and socially, and there’s the extra challenge of the people in their families and support systems who have moved farther away from them.

Harvey’s department has been talking with Iowans about these challenges and says there are three concerns that keep coming up. One is elder abuse. “Particularly in the arena of financial exploitation, often times we see that people take full advantage of older people who may not have all the knowledge they need to protect themselves from families sometimes, as well as outside sources,” Harvey explains.

Health issues cause several challenges for the elderly. Harvey says there’s loneliness and depression and other health issues you face as you age, and finally transportation issues are a concern, as she says the elderly can’t access services if they can’t get there.

Being a state with an older population isn’t all bad though. “They bring a lot of resources to the community financially, many of them have their homes paid for, they pay all their debts on time, and are very responsible that way,” Harvey says, “they support their local merchants. So in small communities they’ll continue to shop at the local grocer and pharmacist, where those of us who are more mobile sometimes have more options to do that.”

And while older Iowans may be retired, that doesn’t mean they don’t have income.  ” I like to tell people that Social Security alone brings in a huge asset to the state and we need to remember that, that while they may not be actively employed, they are still bringing that money in with them, and so they are returning financial assets to the community,”Harvey says, “And often times they are the core volunteers who are filling some of those unmet needs throughout the state.”

 Harvey says anyone who has questions about elder issues should contact her department. Or go to their website: