Minnesota, particularly Greater Minnesota, is experiencing a population boom. However, the boom is only for a particular segment of the population, one that is making an impact, some might say negative impact, on the state’s services and economy.

The Minnesota State Demographic Center reports that the number of Minnesotans turning 65 in this decade, about 285,000 people, will be greater than the past four decades combined. By 2030, more than one in four Minnesota adults will be seniors, a trend that is affecting the entire nation.

The change in Greater Minnesota is even more dramatic. For example, in Aitken County, north of Mille Lacs Lake, 37 percent of adults were already age 65 or older in 2015. That percentage is projected to jump to 47 percent by 2030, meaning there will be nearly one adult in the traditional working age group for every senior in the county.

The figures aren’t quite as dramatic in Fillmore and Houston counties, but they are still concerning as the senior population will increase significantly while the overall population is projected to decrease.

In 2015, Fillmore County, with a population of 20,698, of which 15,902 were adults, had 4,324 people age 65 and over. That is 27 percent of the adult population.

In 2020, the percentage is projected to be 30 percent in Fillmore County and by 2030, the county is projected to have a population of 19,497, of which 15,670 are adults. Of those adults, 35 percent, a total of 5,554, will be 65 and older.

Houston County projections are similar as the total population from 2015 to 2030 is expected to go from 18,708 to 17,824 while the number of people 65 and older is projected to increase from 3,756 to 5,599.

The percentage of adults 65 and older is lower than Fillmore County in 2015 at 25 percent, but by 2030 it will be higher than Fillmore County at 38 percent.

The number of adults 65 and older in the entire state goes from 19 percent of all adults in 2015 to 27 percent in 2030.

The shift can be blamed on the baby boomers and their parents. The parents of the baby boomer generation were part of a group that had many child-bearing families and they produced a large number of children. Those children, now baby boomers reaching retirement, have the longest life expectancy in history.

The trend of smaller families and longer life expectancy will likely continue, so this trend will have some staying power to it. Births in Minnesota peaked at more than 73,000 in 2007. Minnesota is also ranked one of the healthiest states in the nation and was declared the healthiest state for seniors, according to a 2017 national study that evaluated several categories in each state.

The numbers are staggering. Minnesota is projected to have 20,000 fewer students in kindergarten to 12th grade and 455,000 more seniors by 2030. Numbers for Fillmore and Houston counties show that already there are more adults 65 and older than there are children, which is a historical first.

What does it mean for Minnesota, particularly Greater Minnesota?

Minnesota is already experiencing an increased demand for senior care and support services. However, that care is now more likely to occur in the home. Nearly 80 percent of seniors say they plan to stay in their home as long as possible.

That may be a good thing. Studies show it costs half as much on average to provide support for seniors through home and community-based services rather than a nursing home. More importantly, according to a statewide advocacy group, more older residents will stay in the communities they know and love with access to a range of services that help them live their best lives.

The tricky part is how to provide those services with fewer working age people in Minnesota contributing tax revenue. Even trickier for Greater Minnesota is finding enough able-bodied workers to provide those services and keep businesses open in rural communities where those seniors want to stay.

Minnesota government officials can address steps that will aid the population of seniors in the state, expected to be 1 million by 2030, with potential reforms of home- and community-based services.

Still, that doesn’t solve the problem of a shrinking population of workers needed to provide support and help fund programs that benefit the elderly.

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce has some rather surprising ideas on how to boost the number of workers in Minnesota. The chamber is calling on the state’s congressional delegation to take action protecting the so-called “Dreamers” under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The reason for the push is because immigrants have a significant impact on Minnesota’s economy. In fact, they may be the state’s only hope of growing rather than just aging.

A chamber news release points out that there are as many as 9,973 DACA-eligible recipients in Minnesota. The chamber notes that despite rhetoric claiming undocumented youths are a drain on the Minnesota economy, 91.9 percent of the DACA-eligible population at least 16 years of age are employed, earning almost $154.8 million in total income annually. They contribute $24.1 million in total taxes annually.

Immigrants in general pay $3.7 billion in taxes every year and immigrant-owned businesses employ 52,932 people. Not all those immigrants live in large cities, as some growing rural Minnesota communities have substantial immigrant populations.

A University of Minnesota research report released last year notes that Minnesota will need to attract 4.5 times the number of new residents it currently attracts just to maintain a 0.5 percent average annual growth in the labor force.

Traditionally, Americans have moved across state lines to where the jobs are, but a low birth rate isn’t the only trend that has changed since baby boomers came of age. The Census Bureau reported in 2016 that the percentage of Americans moving over a one-year period fell to an all-time low of 11.2 percent.

With the bleak projections from the state demographer’s office and the trends in mobility, or immobility, of Americans, immigrants appear to be a key way for the state to boost the number of workers in the state.

Bill Blazer, a Minnesota Chamber of Commerce official and member of the committee that worked on the U of M study, said “in order to meet our workforce needs across the state, it is imperative that we welcome immigrants and make them want to call Minnesota home.”

Our president has stoked anti-immigration sentiments in his first year in office. Some of those fears have resonated with rural residents who fear these newcomers are takers, not people honorably seeking the American dream.

However, it appears that if we don’t want Minnesota to become a uniform color of gray, we’re going to have to welcome a variety of nationalities, and other colors, to keep our state healthy.