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TMCNet:  Aging boom: Preparing to serve population growing older

[January 21, 2013]

Aging boom: Preparing to serve population growing older

Jan 21, 2013 (The Star - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Coming soon What will it take to attract more young workers to the county In less than 15 years, it will be easier to find a person in Cleveland County who is 60 and older than one who is 17 and younger.


According to the N.C. 2011-15 Aging Services Plan, in 2025, the 60 and older group will increase to 27,185 people, outnumbering 0-17 year olds by 13 percent.

Monty Thornburg, director of the Patrick Center in Kings Mountain, said these statistics from the N.C. Department of Aging point to the challenges ahead.

"In my opinion the focus is clearly going to change from a young society to a older, more mature society," he said.

Senior Centers changing for Baby Boomers Paulette Putnam, executive director of the Council on Aging/Neal Senior Center in Shelby, expects the changes to come even faster within the next five years.

Baby boomers, she said, will be putting off retirement and working longer. They will want to take better care of themselves.

"You will see a big shift in senior center hours," she said. "Baby boomers are going to want to come after work, work out and get a light supper. Across the nation there are already senior centers opening later (in the morning) and open later at night." Cleveland County has 'strong network of providers' Long-range planning is key to handling the growing number of senior citizens, said Laura Lynch, director of the Area Agency on Aging, which serves Cleveland, Rutherford, Polk and McDowell counties.

Area Agencies on Aging are federally mandated organizations that assist older adults and their families. Lynch has served the region for 13 years and said Cleveland County is "on the ball" as far as planning.

"There is a strong network of providers (in Cleveland County)," she said. "They are always thinking of the future and they work well together." The providers meet regularly as members of ACCES, Accessing Cleveland County Elder Services, she said. This group, which includes representatives from the senior centers, uncovered a need for care management services and created Care Solutions in 1999 to help older and disabled adults and their families cope with the challenges of aging.

"They saw the need and went after the grant money," Lynch said. "The service providers are good at coming together and looking for grants to find funding on their own." Funds are 'never enough' While Cleveland County providers are strong in planning, one area of weakness is funding, Lynch said. The funding comes through the federal Older Americans Act, Home and Community Care Block Grant funds and other funds.

"There is never enough funding to provide for the services folks need," she said. "In 13 years, the block grant does not vary. If we remain constant, we are happy." Lynch also said currently there is no shortage of long-term care facilities in Cleveland County. The state assesses the need and decides how many beds will be available, she said.

The senior center's purpose As the population ages, senior centers will play a vital role in helping older adults age with dignity, Thornburg said.

"There needs to be a strategic expansion of senior services," he said. "Senior centers offer preventative health care -- including health and lifestyle education, immunizations and health screenings -- to reduce injuries and the onset of chronic diseases." Expansion of the Patrick Senior Center's building will help to increase services, Lynch said.

"I am very much in support of the expansion," she said. "They are pro-active in planning, active in their participants and their activities are varied. They have the ability to pull in a younger senior population. The county and Kings Mountain would be well-served by an expansion of that senior center." Cooking and serving a hot meal daily at the Patrick Senior Center is a goal for Thornburg that can become a reality with the proposed 4,200-square-foot addition.

At present, the meal is cooked in Shelby at the Neal Senior Center, trucked to Kings Mountain and served there. One meal, both Thornburg and Putnam said, can keep an older person in their home, which saves the county in health care costs.

"Our philosophy is prevention, from serving meals to educational seminars to health fairs," Putnam said. "We've seen it; being able to put a nutritious meal in the home can keep somebody from having repeat trips to the hospital." Growing old in Cleveland County According to the N.C. 2011-15 Aging Services Plan, between now and 2030: N.C. Population 65+ 2011 -- 1.2 million 2030 -- 2.1 million Cleveland County Population 60+ 2011 -- 21,579 2025 -- 27,185 Cleveland County Population 0-17 2011 -- 22,554 2025 -- 20,518 Source: N.C. Department of Aging Who uses the senior centers Patrick Senior Center -- 1,200 to 1,500 different individuals visit the center each year -- First-time and duplicate visits number 50,000 to 55,000 in a year -- Volunteers log more than 10,000 hours in a year -- Private individuals and groups rent for weddings and special events Neal Senior Center -- 300 to 500 people use the center daily -- Volunteers contribute more than 36,000 hours of service -- Private individuals and groups rent for weddings and special events Source: Monty Thornburg and Paulette Putnam Building comparisons Patrick Senior Center -- The $3.2 million center has 17,000 square feet; paid for by the city of Kings Mountain and private funding -- The center has asked for $300,000 from county commissioners for a 4,200-square-foot addition. The remainder of the $1.2 million project would come from the city of Kings Mountain and private donations.

-- The Patrick Center is accepting donations from the community for the proposed addition. Naming opportunities are available. For more information, call the center at 704-734-0447.

Neal Senior Center -- The 30,000-square-foot building was completed in January 2001 at a cost of $3.5 million; private donors and Cleveland County contributed to the capital campaign -- $438,527.51 still owed for the building; The Council on Aging/Neal Senior Center is a private, non-profit organization and receives some funding from Cleveland County and no funding from the city of Shelby.

-- Neal Senior Center also accepts donations to pay off its debt on the building. Naming opportunities are still available. For more information, call 704-482-3488.

Source: Monty Thornburg and Paulette Putnam ___ (c)2013 The Star (Shelby, N.C.) Visit The Star (Shelby, N.C.) at www.shelbystar.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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