|By 2020, 25% of county residents wil be senior citizens|
Friday, December 20, 2013
By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer
The Franklin County Board of Supervisors has accepted a strategic plan to handle the ever-increasing number of seniors in the county.
That plan was presented to the board on Tuesday by Dr. Sue Beatty and Maggie Gray, members of the Franklin County Department of Aging Services board who have spearheaded the creation of the plan.
Gray and Beatty highlighted current and expected needs for an aging population. Those include adequate transportation, housing, health care issues and socialization.
By 2020, a quarter of the county's population will be 65 years old and older, Gray said. That prediction prompted the aging services board to begin an investigation more than two years ago into what was termed the "silver tsunami" in the county.
Armed with statistics and input from various sources, including eight focus groups around the county and stakeholder interviews held earlier this year, consistent concerns surfaced, Gray said.
Transportation topped the list, as many seniors need help with medical appointments and other necessary trips.
A lack of housing suitable for seniors is also a problem, she said, so many have to leave the county to find appropriate places to live.
Health care is a concern because of an ongoing and expected increase in the demand for medical services. Gray also said many seniors in the county may be unaware of all of the services that are now available, and service providers don't always do a good job of communicating with each other.
In August, a final meeting was held on aging with invited participants from around the county.
"This group in August came back basically with the same conclusions," she said.
Beatty said another meeting was held in September to finalize the plan, which will help guide the county in handling aging issues.
"We came up with two very important goals," she said, with the first to make the county a desirable place to live for seniors.
Beatty said the county can help do this by:
•Encouraging senior living and day care options through incentives to developers.
•Working with medical/dental/mental health providers to develop and bring services into the county.
•Targeting advertising to the desirability of Franklin County as a retirement community.
•Encouraging community based transportation service (such as Bedford Ride).
•Considering the rapidly growing senior population and their future needs a part of the county's strategic planning.
The second goal is to make as many of the necessary services and facilities available through realignment of the county's department of aging services.
One of the first steps is to perform an analysis of the current use of aging services vans to determine cost-effectiveness, she said. "We need to figure out what is going on in transportation."
Enhancement of the duties of the department of aging services is a needed part of the goal as well, she said, and that includes coordinating services for seniors, advocating for seniors, collecting and sharing information on available services and coordinating education initiatives.
Beatty also said aging services wants to partner with churches or other groups around the county to provide activities and services in communities rather than concentrate everything in Rocky Mount.
Both Gray and Beatty praised the board of supervisors for its support, as well as assistant county Administrator Chris Whitlow.
They also expressed their gratitude for the board's purchase of the Rocky Mount YMCA and Essig Center, which is now serving as a permanent home for aging services.
"It (the Essig Center) is a wonderful facility," Beatty said, adding that it has all of the amenities needed for aging services activities, from a kitchen to meeting rooms to a gym.
The board voted unanimously to accept the strategic plan and county Administrator Rick Huff said the plan helps the county as it looks ahead in budgeting.