The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Friday, June 22, 2012
By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer
By the time most 2012 Franklin County kindergartners graduate from high school, one out of every four residents in the county will be at least 65 years old.
That's one of the statistics Dr. Susan Beatty presented to the Franklin County Board of Supervisors Tuesday afternoon, and she called this senior population boom the "silver tsunami."
Beatty, the Gills Creek representative on the the Franklin County Department of Aging Service's board of directors, said that what is alarming about the coming silver tsunami is that the county has no plan in place to deal with an aging population.
"We don't have a strategic plan for the future needs of 25 percent of our population," she said, adding that current funding for the department of aging services is "dramatically out of proportion" to what is spent on other needs.
The board of supervisors had asked the aging services board to look into issues facing seniors at a board retreat last fall, and Beatty said many problems need to be addressed.
The 65-plus age group will be the second largest population category in the county by 2030, she said, with about 15,000 residents. A strategic plan to handle the needs of those residents must be developed and implemented, she added.
What are those needs? What is critical? What can be handled by government and what should be under the purview of other entities? These are some of the questions that should be asked to help create that plan, she said, but the most pressing need now is transportation.
Currently, the department of aging services has only one full-time employee, Rose Boyd, who spends most of her time on transportation issues, Beatty said. In fact, of the $355,510 total budget for the department, 73 percent is spent on transportation. The county's share of the budget is $104,000 with the remainder from federal and state funding.
Beatty asked if transportation can be outsourced and if volunteer drivers be used. These drivers must be trained and certified and now they are all paid.
The demand for transportation services is going to keep increasing, she said, as older residents need to keep medical appointments, shop for food or travel to recreation sites.
Other needs will increase as well, including EMS, nutrition services, caregivers, safety, routine medical services, recreation and education.
Beatty presented these five recommendations for the board to consider:
•Develop a strategic plan with the use of a facilitator, which is an experienced consultant, who would work with various agencies, businesses and government officials to create that plan. The cost of the facilitator would be about $3,000.
•Fill a long-vacated position with the department of aging services to give Boyd some help. That person may also be able to look for and write requests for grants.
•Agree on a course of action to handle transportation needs.
•Re-establish the community coalition, which disbanded about a year ago. The coalition was a group of residents from various positions that focused on coordinating community needs and volunteer efforts.
But Beatty said that in order for the coalition to work, a paid administrative coordinator must be in place.
•Establish a broader public education effort to make residents aware of the aging situation and what must be done.
One of the problems is that many groups and organizations are already providing various services to seniors, including food, money and clothing, but there is no central clearing house of sorts so they can communicate with each other, Beatty said. An administrative coordinator could do that job, creating a network of assistance where appropriate referrals could be made when needed.
Another issue that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later is a home for the department, which is now in rented space in the American Legion Building on Tanyard Road in Rocky Mount The department pays $500 a month in rent, plus utilities, but the rent is expected to increase, she said. A major issue with that facility is the lower level has no entrance for the handicapped.
Funding decreases have hurt as well, with fewer meals and social events available and a loss of health and wellness programs, Beatty said.
In 2009, the department of aging services presented a similar report to the board. At that time, the report also recommended that an aging services master plan be developed, but no action was ever taken.
The board took no action on the presentation Tuesday.