Emerging Issues

There are very clear national demographic trends that are paralleled in our region and these shifts have important implications for how we plan and ready ourselves for the future. Some of these trends present challenges we’ve not confronted before while others may come as no surprise to us at all.

In either case, we must watch the trends to prepare our region for change because we cannot escape their impacts. While we may not have the proverbial “crystal ball” these trends are indicators of what may come. We need to match our needs and aspirations against them so we can work to achieve the tomorrow we want and strive for through our Regional Growth Management Plan rather than have our future simply happen to us.

Senior women playing croquet

Aging Population

Nationally, we are getting older and thanks to the well-known baby boomers, 1 in 5 are expected to be over 65 by 2030. As time marches on, coupled with technology and medical advances, the likelihood we will live well into our 90s and celebrate our 100th birthday is very real. In fact, the fastest growing segment of older Americans is the 80+ age group, the parents of the 50+ aged baby-boomers. So as we plan for an aging population, we need to think in terms of multiple generations.

Like the rest of the nation, over the last 20 years our region’s population has aged and the portion over age 65 has steadily increased. Because the first of the baby boomer generation entered the ranks of the 65 and older crowd in 2011 this trend is here to stay. Further, some studies show nearly 90% say they want to stay in their homes and communities until they die. As a region is our housing, transportation, or community services set up to support that aspiration?

For more info, view our Aging in Tri-County report.

Containers of tomatoes at farm stand

Access to Food

Our system of producing, processing, distributing and consuming food is vital to the region's health and vitality. Until 2012, however, there was no guiding policy in place and no public forum for stakeholders to discuss our regional food system issues.

Today, the Capital Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Area Council and their South Central PA Food System Alliance are providing leadership on regional food issues and initiatives.

Additionally, TCRPC supports regional food initiatives through data collection and analysis, and by demonstrating the connection between our food system and other planning issues such as smart growth, transportation, the environment and the economy.

Our combined effort is to create a regional food system that:

  • keeps our communities healthy;
  • preserves farms and keeps them viable; 
  • expands food-related businesses and jobs;
  • reduces transportation costs and petroleum dependency;
  • keeps consumers’ food dollars circulating in our regional economy;
  • honors our heritage; 
  • and helps to define our sense of place.

TCRPC's 2012 Food Systems Preliminary Study provides data and analysis to suggest the next planning steps for local decision makers. It also serves as the centerpiece for a public discussion about the merits of forming an independent Food Policy Council to advance planning efforts in the region. (View a slide presentation on the study.)

Click here for interactive map showing, by county, the number of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants in Pennsylvania (2010 figures).

Additional resources available here.

Rural home

Regional Poverty

Public perception of poverty is that it only occurs in urban or rural areas. Nationally over the past decade, however, it has been the suburban communities that have shown the larger and faster-growing poor populations. And trends are showing that poverty is becoming increasingly more concentrated within some suburban neighborhoods and not others. Curiously however, poor residents in urban and suburban areas seem to show similar characteristics demographically and economically.

Our region also reflects similar suburban trends with median income decreasing and the percentage of families in poverty increasing over the last decade. It is important to understand these trends, their impetus, and address the obstacles that are being generated through changes to regional land use, transportation, housing, economic, education, tax and finance policies to generate more healthy and resilient communities throughout the region.