Photo by: Brendan Sullivan Herman Franklin, 75, reaches to take a shot while playing pool with about ten men at the Lawrenceville Senior Center on Friday. Last week commissioners approved a new senior services plan which will increase the governments funding for local senior centers.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Gwinnett is graying.
It's a fact that Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash is all too aware of, since she celebrated her 60th birthday last month.
But with a 91 percent increase in people 60 and older recorded between the 2000 and 2010 Census, the good news is the county can count on a significant increase in federal funds for services for seniors.
Commissioners approved a new senior services plan last week that not only increases the government's capacity to serve meals and increase transportation services but also to open a satellite senior program at the Centerville community center.
"That's good news for us," Jamie Cramer, the manager of senior services, said during a presentation to commissioners last month of the $397,500 in increased funding the county is expecting during the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.
In 2000, Gwinnett had 46,216 residents who were age 60 and older, compared to 88,041 in 2010.
While exact comparisons are not available, county officials said home-delivered meals have increased from 84,596 in 2006 to 96,552 in 2012 and meals served at county senior centers increased from 32,605 to 50,890. Calls from residents requesting assistance and information increased from 13,144 to 19,600 over the same seven year time frame.
With the new funding, which brings the total to more than $1.5 million including state and local matches, the county is expected to deliver another 17,500 meals a year. That adds 70 more seniors to the program, but doesn't cover all of the 200 on the waiting list.
The increase also allows for 4,000 more one-way passenger trips for medical-related appointments and allows the county to set up a volunteer transportation initiative, which could help more seniors find rides.
Nash initially expressed concern about the expanded service, since people from rural areas have objected to the shift of money away from their communities. But she said officials have set up a plan to cut back if any reductions come, including from the sequestration cuts approved by Congress.
"I have no question about the need for these type of services," Nash said. "I'm excited about the prospect that the funding is being equalized."
Cramer said leaders are also making plans to make sure the seniors of diverse backgrounds are taken care of, since the census also revealed a need for help with Spanish-, Korean- and Chinese-speakers.