Huntsville, like the rest of the United States, is aging.
As baby boomers enter their senior years, the future of our country will depend on this large and influential generation, now estimated at 73 million people.
That’s why responding to the U.S. Census is so critical, for baby boomers and beyond.
“Every reply is important, just as every senior is important,” said Cathie Mayne, marketing director for the Huntsville-Madison County Senior Center. “We form a huge demographic and are a large – and vocal – voting block. The contributions of our seniors have created the bedrock for the growth of our community.”
Your count matters
Counting every person living in the U.S. for the Census every 10 years is significant. Why? Because that data helps lawmakers, business owners, teachers and others provide vital services, products and support for our city.
Census results also impact how much federal funding Huntsville will receive for hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads and other resources people rely on each day.
“As we get older, the demand for more services such as Medicare, Social Security, senior housing and paratransit (such as Handi-Ride) is increasing,” said Huntsville City Planner James Vandiver. “These are the types of programs that use Census data for distributing funding.
“If someone in our community isn’t counted in the Census, that funding doesn’t disappear – it goes to another place in America where everyone was counted.”
If someone in our community isn’t counted in the Census, that funding doesn’t disappear – it goes to another place in America where everyone was counted.”
Census data also determines how many seats Alabama will hold in the U.S. House of Representatives and provides information critical to emergency planning, preparedness and recovery. With the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, it’s more important than ever to get a complete and accurate Census count.
TARCOG Director of Aging Programs Rene Breland said residents are simply “leaving money on the table” by not participating.
“Alabama can’t afford to lose a penny,” she said. “This is true for seniors. It’s true for every aspect of our lives, for all ages.”
For the first time, the U.S. Census form will be available online. While many people find this option convenient, the senior population may be apprehensive to complete the Census on a computer or mobile device.
Breland said they regularly educate local seniors about scams and other fraudulent materials or claims. As a result, older adults are often very careful about who they give personal information to.
“They are naturally suspicious for the most part about giving away their information, which is good, but now we have to reeducate everybody that this is the Census,” Breland said.
The Census Bureau does not send unsolicited emails to request participation in the survey. The agency will also never ask for:
- Social Security number
- Bank account or credit card numbers
- Anything on behalf of a political party
- Money or donations
In addition, Breland said some older adults aren’t computer-savvy or may not have access to a computer or phone with internet.
Residents who prefer a more traditional route can do it over the phone or by mail using a paper questionnaire. Anyone who does not respond in a timely manner will receive an in-person visit from a Census representative.
Concerned about a face-to-face meeting with the Census during COVID-19? Residents over age 60 or who have a serious underlying medical condition can practice social distancing by responding online, over the phone or by mail without ever meeting a Census taker.
Future at stake
As of March 22, about 16 percent of households had responded to the 2020 Census since invitations began arriving in mailboxes earlier this month. That percentage includes every state, county and city across the U.S.
The Census Bureau previously announced it would stop collecting Census data in late July, but now says it will extend the deadline by two weeks to give people more time during the COVID-19 outbreak.
No matter what happens with coronavirus, Breland said the Census gives everyone an equal opportunity to make a difference in not only their lives, but the lives of those who come after them.
“This is the Census,” she said. “We can’t do anything about what happened in the past. The Census has everything to do with the future.”
For more information, visit the City’s Census page here.