In 2017, Humboldt County had 34,545 citizens over 60 years old – senior citizens, if you will. In 2020, there were 36,080. In 2022, the number rose to 38,207.
The population of Humboldt County is aging. And aging takes a toll on the body.
As our population grows older, the services required are becoming more and more scarce. In 2021-22, there were 272 physicians in Humboldt County. Only 67 of those were primary care physicians. That means each primary care physician is taking care of about 570 elderly patients in addition to infants, children, and other adults.
I have chronic illnesses and am disabled. I am one of the fortunate ones that has insurance, support from my family, and a long-term nurse practitioner to act as my primary care. Recently, they referred me to four local doctors for tests, pain and injuries. One of these referrals was able to schedule me for a test. Their first available appointment was in September. Two other offices have told me that they received the referrals but couldn’t estimate when I might be seen. Their schedules are full; they will call me when they can make me an appointment. One of the offices denies receiving the referral, even though my primary says they have faxed it to them twice. I do not know when I will receive the care I need.
Recently, a friend of mine had a concerning lab result and was told they would need further testing to rule out cancer. However, the first appointment they could get for the additional testing was three months out. Imagine three months of waiting to see whether you had cancer or not.
Being disabled comes with its own issues. I would challenge every business owner and store manager to navigate the aisles of their stores, restaurants and offices as if they were physically disabled. Can you reach the top and bottom shelves while using a mobility aid – walker, cane, crutches, wheelchair? Are there sufficient riding carts for people to use? Will those riding carts fit down the aisles and take corners without knocking over product? Are your bathrooms ADA compliant? Can a customer in a wheelchair navigate between tables in a restaurant? In a theatre? An office building?
Some of these issues are not covered by law. For instance, stores are not required to provide riding carts. However, if an aging population cannot comfortably and reliably use your business, they will go elsewhere. That means more online shopping and more home delivery, which leads to less money in the local economy.
It also means that older people are becoming more isolated. And being isolated can lead to more injuries and illnesses. And so the circle turns again, to the fact that there is insufficient health care in our county.
Humboldt County is a wonderful place. I feel fortunate to have been raised here and continue to be glad that I can live in such a beautiful place. But I often feel forgotten and neglected. As society works towards inclusion for all its members, please don’t forget that you will also be old one day. Is this the future you want? Will your needs be provided for?
Is this the best that Humboldt can do?