As region ages, services must keep pace

The number of Connecticut residents who are 65 years old or older is growing and is expected to continue to increase into the next decade. U.S. Census figures show 14.2 percent of the state’s population was 65 or older in 2010. By 2016, that percentage had grown to 16.1.

In southeastern Connecticut, 20 percent or more of the population of the towns of Old Lyme, East Lyme, Waterford and Stonington are 65 or older, according to data published by Connecticut’s Legislative Commission on Aging. By 2025, this age group will comprise a fifth or more of the population of nearly all the state’s municipalities.

These increasing numbers make it easy to see that it’s vital to provide for this community in a wide of variety of ways. In addition to the growing numbers, more families live further apart, meaning adult children are less often readily available for regular check-ins and assistance to aging parents.

There also is a broadening spectrum of physical abilities in this age group. At one end of the spectrum are seniors seeking to remain physically active and in the work force, while at the other end are seniors who may have physical limitations or illnesses such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

The business Seniors Helping Seniors foresaw the growing need to help older adults in southeastern Connecticut and is now marking a decade of service to shoreline residents. This Mystic-based business operates on the premise that should older adults need some help, they’d prefer to get it from people who are close to their own age. As such, it hires seniors, most of whom are in their 60s, to assist other older residents in need of a helping hand. The senior employees help the business’s clients with everything from preparing and sharing meals, to light housekeeping, to driving to the grocery store and helping choose and buy food.

The business assists some 70 residents, helping them remain independent. Seniors Helping Seniors provides an important supplement to the many volunteer-based programs striving to fill some similar needs. Thames Valley Council for Community Action, for example, oversees a Retired and Senior Volunteer or RSVP program that gives older volunteers a means through which to stay active and give back to their communities, for example.

Some individual municipal senior centers also offer visiting or check-in programs that team older volunteers with shut-ins who could benefit from a call or visit. The Groton Senior Center offers an Elegant Dinner Delivery program in which a fancy donated restaurant meal is brought to an older resident’s home along with table linens and formal table settings. The volunteer delivering the meal sets it up, then eats with and socializes with the meal recipient.

With such a wide variety of needs and numbers that will continue to grow as baby boomers age, there’s room for all these services and more that help both able and active seniors, as well as those who are more physically or mentally limited. There must continue to be a healthy variety of both for-profit businesses and volunteer-based services to meet a wide range of needs to help ensure independence and a good quality of life for all older adults.

 

 

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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