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Letter to the Editor: 'Silver Tsunami' and Budget Cuts

Lilburn residents says there are challenges and costs associated with an aging population that society must pay attention to. A special event on Oct. 30 will address these issues.

On Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. at Lilburn City Hall the Lilburn Woman’s Club is sponsoring an expert panel offering important information on the impact of the rapidly growing numbers of people who are 60-plus.

The event is free and open to the public. This article offers background on why the event is named “The Silver Tsunami in a Time of Budget Cuts”. Unless otherwise stated all facts are from the Georgia Council on Aging.

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What do we mean by tsunami when it comes to the increasing number of seniors? Imagine 10,000 people a day reaching retirement age since 2011.  Many of us who have retired are finding this time of our life a very fulfilling time to explore the interests we did not have time to enjoy when we were employed. Many would say we put in as many hours – without pay – but with the satisfaction of using our time on the myriad interests, hobbies, groups and causes… and grandchildren we hold dear.

At first glance, if our good fortune is the standard of this new reality, we could have a lovely mental picture of many people now experiencing a new freedom.  Unfortunately there are issues that can mar the positive potential of aging well. And there are costs – very big cost that can be associated with an aging population! 

We also hear daily the news about the need to cut expenses at every level of government and especially the need to cut or contain “entitlement” spending such as Medicaid. Cuts at the state level can also mean cuts from matching federal funds. For example, Governor Nathan Deal has requested that departments propose a 3 percent cut for Fiscal Year 2013. The amended budget will cut $2,524,193 for Community Care State Medicaid Match for Client Benefits and that will mean the loss of $4 million in federal funds that would allow them to serve 500 people. 

The Community Care Services Program offers a range of services that allows older Georgians and individuals with physical or sensory disabilities who are eligible for nursing facility care under Medicaid to remain in their homes and communities which can delay the more costly nursing facility placement by more four additional years. Currently there is a waiting list in Georgia of 1,432 for the Community Care Services Program.

In Georgia, there is a waiting list of 19,810 for non-Medicaid home and community based services to help adults age 60 and older who are in social and economic need remain in their homes. These services to older adults and care givers of persons with Alzheimer’s disease, other dementia or chronic health conditions offer home delivered meals, transportation, respite care, adult day care, homemaker services, senior center meals and programs, wellness program services, and minor home repairs. These services help the older adults and also provide support for the family/care giver. 

Alzheimer’s is currently impacting the life of over 120,000 Georgians and now ranks as the number sixth most common cause of death. Nationally the number of deaths from Alzheimer’s rose 66 percent from 2000 to 2008. People with Alzheimer’s disease are high users of hospital, nursing homes and other health and long term care services.  Average Medicaid payments for beneficiaries with Alzheimer’s and other dementia are nine times higher than payments for those without the disease.  These costs do not include unpaid care provided by families and friends, often at great expense to the financial security, health and employment.  (Source – Georgia Council on Aging).

According to the 2000 and 2010 Census, Gwinnett County had 46,216 people aged 60-plus in 2000; by 2010 the number had grown to 88,041. The general population in Gwinnett between 2000 and 2010 grew at a rate of 36.9 percent while the growth in the 60-plus population grew at a rate of 90.5 percent.  According to the 2006 – 2010 American Community Survey there were 3,961 seniors in Gwinnett who were living below the poverty level. There were 18,836 citizens aged 65-plus with one or more disabilities and 5,133 65-plus citizens with cognitive disabilities. 

Gwinnett Health and Human Services offers much needed services to our community and also has volunteer programs that will train us and allow us to help. Learn more about these services from Adrienne Noble, information and assistance specialist, Gwinnett Senior Services Helpline; and Pat Baker, director, Gwinnett County Health & Human Services; and Pat King, forensic special investigator, Department of Human Services, Division of Aging Services will help us understand ways some prey on older people and the disabled. 

A great group to help seniors stay informed and feel connected with the larger community is the Gwinnett Council For Seniors.  Learn more about the Gwinnett Council For Seniors from Rosalind Bennett, president. Join us on Oct. 30, 7 p.m. at Lilburn City Hall.

As a community we need to become advocates for seniors and their families.  Mark your calendar for Be There 4 Seniors Rally at the Capitol January 23, 2013 and for Senior Week at the Capitol on February 27th and 28th.

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