In every keynote, every session, at the 2013 Environments for Aging Conference in New Orleans this week, the statistics and charts and graphs were like a hammer to the head. This silver tsunami thing is a big deal, and the size of the older population—and the extent of its health issues—is going to have a ripple effect throughout the world, affecting our policies, workforce, economies, social structures, and (this is where we come in) our facilities and buildings.

I couldn't possibly get a full handle on all the statistics thrown our way, but here are a few that stood out:

  • There are currently more than 41.4 million people in the U.S. age 65 and over. The number of 45- to 65-year-olds who will eventually need aging housing and services? 82.8 million.
  • By 2050, there will be more than a million 100-year-olds in the U.S. The elderly population in the States will have increased 102 percent between 2000 and 2030.
  • Think those are big numbers? Take a look at China: In 2015—just two years from now—China is projected to have 220 million people over age 60.
  • In 2010, 40 percent of the U.S. population was 45 or older. One in three working Americans has no retirement savings other than Social Security; 35 percent over the age of 65 rely almost entirely on Social Security alone. (In other words: Affordable senior care is going to be an issue.)
  • Dementia care is poised to be a huge issue, too. Right now, between 40 and 60 percent of those age 85 and older is estimated to have some form of dementing illness. Every 69 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s disease—which is just one form of dementia. By 2040, it's estimated that there will be 81.1 million cases of dementia worldwide, and not enough trained caregivers to support them.

I attended a number of really interesting sessions that kicked off with statistics like this, and then delved into suggestions for and challenges to creating facilities of all types to handle the patient/resident influx. There are already myriad senior care environments available and more on the horizon, and fortunately for all of us, there's a dedicated, passionate group of administrators, architects, designers, and other professionals ready to lead the charge.

That was the coolest thing about attending my first Environments for Aging Conference. These people know this market, they care about it deeply, and they're determined to provide the right kinds of facilities to meet the staggering need on the horizon. I'm not just talking about the speakers, either: The attendees were not only engaged, but fully participatory in adding to the discussion and offering solutions. That went for the vendors on the exhibit floor, too, of whom we had a record number this year.

The growth in this market, and the passion of the players, makes me really excited to take over as editor-in-chief of the Environments for Aging brand, which is now under the Healthcare Design umbrella (though still a sister brand to Long-Term Living). And if you'd like more details on the sessions presented at the 2013 Environments for Aging Conference, just plug in "EFA 2013" into our search box at the top of the page. You can also check out—in fact, add that site to your bookmarks for information throughout the year on new facilities, as well as details on next year's conference as they become available.