The U.S. Census bureau says southwest florida is getting older, while also becoming home to a lot more Hispanics and Latinos. The conclusions come from demographic data, gleaned from the 2010 census.
"I knew that was coming," said Rev. Israel Suarez about the boom in the hispanic population. He runs the Nations Association in Lee County. It helps people in need.
"I believe now the hispanics must organize and exert their power. They have to be organized to gain politically. Otherwise, we will not gain power, no matter the numbers," said Suarez.
The figures show the African-American population is holding steady, or growing slightly. In Lee Co., 8.3% of the total population is African-American. That's up only a bit from 2000. That disappoints Veronica Shoemaker, a former member of the Ft. Myers city council, and a woman who has fought for racial equality her entire adult life.
"It has got to grow. That is our weakness. It is surprising. We need more people to get the attention we need from those in power," said Shoemaker. She's now leading a campaign to get African-Americans to register to vote in the 2012 election cycle. "We need more people, but without the vote, it doesn't do much good. Our people must register and vote," she told WINK News.
The new figures reflect an aging population. That could be the result of many retirees moving here in the 2000's, and in a longer life expectancy. Regardless, the percentage of those, aged 60 and over, is growing somewhat. That figure now comes in at 44 percent in Charlotte County, 32.5% in Collier, and 30% in Lee.
It's no surpise at the Dr. Ella Piper Center for Senior Citizens in Ft. Myers.
"We see the people all the time, they need transportation and help to buy food and prescription drugs," said Nida Eluna, director of the center. "It hurts to hear the people try to decide between groceries and prescriptions. It is very tough out there for many of our seniors, and it is getting worse, not better," said Eluna.