It makes sense that seniors need to be counted in 2020 Census

I recently attended a presentation by a partnership specialist for the Los Angeles Regional Census Center. She met with a group of nonprofits to explain details of the upcoming 2020 Census and to express the importance of each household completing the census.

According to AARP, older Americans have been more likely than other age groups to return their U.S. Census forms and make sure they were counted.

That is the good news, because there has never been a census in history that is more important to seniors than this upcoming one—because the senior population is growing at such a rapid pace and needs to be counted.

In 2010, the census revealed there were more than 40 million people 65 and older in the United States, 13% of the population. That number is projected to grow by 15 million, to reach 16% of the population in 2020.

Data collected by the census determines the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and is used to distribute billions in federal funds to local communities. As the population of older Americans grows, the more their needs should be reflected (hopefully) in the federal funds provided to local communities. So being counted matters.

There is a challenge that exists, however. The Census Bureau has moved to have census responses returned online versus paper to save money. They note that the 2010 census, which cost $10.2 billion, was the most expensive in history. Moving the census to an online platform could save as much as $5.2 billion.

Unfortunately, this creates one more hurdle in the effort to have seniors counted, as some older adults are not comfortable with online forms.

Here’s the breakdown: In March 2020, most households will receive a postcard asking them to complete the census questionnaire online with information about how to respond online or by phone in English (plus 12 other languages).

Areas less likely to respond online—which, according to the Census Bureau, are approximately 21.8% of households— will receive a paper questionnaire along with the invitation to respond online or over the phone.

In May 2020, census takers begin visiting homes that haven’t responded to the 2020 Census to help ensure everyone is counted. At the same time, other Census Bureau representatives will be visiting homes for ongoing surveys, such as the American Community Survey.

If someone visits your home to collect information for the 2020 Census, you can check to make sure that they have a valid ID badge, with their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date.

Census takers will ask how many people are living or staying in your household. They will ask for names, sex, age, date of birth, national origin, race and relationship of each person in the household. They will ask whether your home is owned or rented. They will ask for a phone number in case they need to contact you.

Census takers will not ask for a Social Security number or immigration status. They will not ask for your income, bank account number or other financial information. To learn more about what census takers will and will not ask, go to census.gov.

By law, your census responses are kept confidential and cannot be used against you by any government agency, including the FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland Security or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Census Bureau staff take a lifetime oath to protect your personal information, and any violation comes with a penalty of up to $250,000 and/or up to five years in prison. No court of law can subpoena census responses.

The 2020 Census is an important way to support our community and validate the growth of the over-65 population. When the census comes to you, be counted.

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Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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