DOBSON — Surry County’s population is aging, and it is expected to get older over the next couple of decades. Officials are urging the Board of Commissioners to begin thinking about how to deal with the aging population.
That was the message Adrienne Calhoun, assistant director of the Piedmont Triad Regional Council Area Agency on Aging, delivered as she updated the board on issues related to aging.
Calhoun delivered her report during Monday’s meeting at the County Government Center in Dobson.
During her report, she said that compared to an overall growth rate of 3.4 percent for the county, the population of residents 60 years of age and older increased 17.8 percent between 2000 and 2010.
“We are in an aging society,” Calhoun said. “The growth that you see represents that Surry County will also see a dramatic increase in the number of adults aged 75 and older.”
Between 2010 and 2030, the county is expected to see the number of residents between age 60 and 64 to decrease by three percent, while those aged between 65 and 75 will grow by 27 percent. Residents age between 75 and 84 are expected to increase by 42 percent, while those considered very frail and elderly (age 85 and older) will increase by 24 percent.
“What we’re talking about here impacts a lot of people in the county,” she said. “It’s important.”
According to Calhoun, the challenges faced by the county include how to deliver services to the aging population.
“Older adults in Surry County live both in and outside of municipal areas,” she said. “As an agency, we need to begin thinking about how to deliver services in the county.”
Calhoun said that less than four percent of the county’s seniors live in residential care facilities.
“Almost two-thirds of older adults live with family members,” she said. “Almost one-third live alone and 75 percent of those are single women.”
And those single elderly residents face serious challenges, Calhoun added.
“These include dropping income levels,” she said.
Of the 12,250 people who are age 65 and older, 94 percent receive Social Security benefits averaging $1,063 per month.
“This is only $1,586 per year more than the baseline federal poverty level,” Calhoun said, adding that “13.8 percent of Surry County seniors live on less than $11,000 per year.”
Other challenges include lack of transportation, she added.
“There are 754 households in Surry County with seniors who don’t have access to a vehicle,” she said. “While we may have transportation options within our municipal areas, there are a lot of people who live outside these boundaries.”
Access to food is another problem.
Calhoun said that North Carolina ranks ninth in the nation for food insecurity for seniors.
“In Surry County, more than 12,000 older adults don’t have access to nutritious food,” she said. “Seniors trying to be responsible will go without food to make ends meet.”
While home delivered meals programs provide more than 7,000 meals in the county a year, more needs to be done as the county’s population gets older.
“Hopefully, with planning and preparation, the community will be ready for the aging population over the next several years,” Calhoun said. “We must all work together to be proactive to provide services to the older adults in the community who decide to remain at home.”
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.