BANGOR, Maine — Maine’s aging baby boomers are going to be “a real handful” to house in coming years, according to Lenard Kaye, director of the University of Maine Center on Aging. In his speech at the Maine Affordable Housing Conference in Bangor on Tuesday, Kaye, who will turn 65 in a few days, said the generation born between 1946 and 1964 is entering retirement age, and housing planners and developers should anticipate a wave of assertive, self-advocating boomers like him.

Maine’s population of people 65 and older accounts for 18 percent of the total state population, compared to the 14 percent national average, and the state is on track to have the largest per capita population of baby boomers of all the states by 2020, according to statistics Kaye cited in his speech. Already, he said, an average of 50 Mainers turn 65 every day.

“The longevity revolution is upon us,” he said.

Not only are the boomers living longer and more active lives than previous generations, Kaye noted, they are also more outspoken, more determined to maintain control over where and how they age, more interested in staying engaged in civic and social activities, and more likely to stay in the workforce and to pursue activities such as travel and continuing education long into their golden years.

These realities mean that professionals charged with planning private and tax-subsidized senior housing communities, care facilities and home-based support programs should expect this generation to demand options such as fitness centers, outdoor activities and educational opportunities in their living arrangements. Issues like transportation, access to technology and “walkability” will be important as well, he said.

In addition to Kaye’s lunchtime address, the morning keynote speaker was country music singer-songwriter Jimmy Wayne, who delivered a moving description of his own experience growing up in foster care.

Wayne advocated expanding foster care to age 21 to combat homelessness as children age out of the system at age 18. He also described his experiences, saying he moved frequently from home to home and eventually ran away at the age of 16, becoming homeless.

The full-day conference, organized by the Maine State Housing Authority and held at Bangor’s Cross Insurance Center, attracted hundreds of housing and service providers, planners, builders, designers, lenders and others from across the state. Workshop topics included homeless youth, opportunities for the building trades, multi-family real estate management, public policy and demographic trends in homelessness and housing insecurity.

More information about the conference, including slide presentations and other materials, is available at the MSHA website: http://www.mainehousing.org/housingconference

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Meg Haskell

Meg Haskell is a curious second-career journalist with two grown sons, a background in health care and a penchant for new experiences. She lives in Stockton Springs. Email her at mhaskell@bangordailynews.com.