According to the Administration on Aging’s most recent profile of older Americans, there are more than 44 million Americans who are 65 or older — nearly a 25 percent increase over the last 11 years.

It also notes that while Americans 65 years and older now make up about 15 percent of the U.S. population, that’s expected to grow to nearly 22 percent by 2040.

How significant is that?

Well, by 2033 — 18 years from now — there will be more Americans 65 and older than those 18 and younger for the first time in the nation’s history, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s population projections.

And the silver tide will roll as the rest of the nation begins to look more like Florida.

FLORIDA LEADS THE WAY

Florida is one of 19 states, according to Aging Administration stats, where residents 65 and older already make up more than 15 percent of the population.

In Duval County alone, nearly 1 in every 5 residents is age 60 or older, according to Florida’s Department of Elder Affairs.

Both of those categories are expected to explode in numbers in the years ahead — and so will many others when it comes to the older population in Florida and Northeast Florida.

“There are big challenges coming ahead for us that I don’t think we’ve fully grasped,” said Linda Levin, executive director of Elder Source.

“But it’s also going to create lots of great opportunities ahead for us, too,” Levin added. “The story of our (increasing) older population shouldn’t be just about the needs it will have. It should also be about the huge contributions it can and will continue to make to our community.”

A HIDDEN GEM

Elder Source has been doing amazing work in helping to meet the needs, but it also promotes the promise and potential of this area’s older population.

In its role as the lead organization for overseeing the state funds that support senior services in Duval, St. Johns, Clay and four other area counties, Elder Source does everything from helping link older residents to programs and benefits to providing critical backing to caregivers.

It operates a Resource Center Help Line that handles approximately 3,000 calls each month. The help line is largely regarded as one of the best service centers for seniors in Florida, thanks to the numerous volunteers who work in tandem with Elder Source to staff it.

Elder Source has been consistently recognized by the state for its excellence and accountability; it’s among a handful of organizations — of any kind — to win national accreditation from the Alliance of Information & Referral Systems for its ability to use data and other resources to help its clients.

In short, Elder Source is yet another of Jacksonville’s hidden gems — an effective nonprofit that may lack the high profile of some but makes a huge impact few can match.

The fact is that Floridians and Americans are getting older. If the state is smart, Florida will be the national leader in adjusting to this wave of older Americans.

The sheer numbers of older Americans means there will be big pressures on health care and retirement costs. That means the nation must take every opportunity to spend those funds wisely.

There are many elderly Americans who are ready and willing to work, some with part-time or flexible hours. That human resource can be a big asset if employers capitalize.

The “Silver Tsunami” is coming to Northeast Florida.

It’s coming.

And as that tsunami approaches, Elder Source’s work in addressing it will be even more critical — and appreciated — throughout our community.