Senior Centers need support

Published 4:05 pm Friday, September 22, 2023

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To the Editor:

As the NC Senior Tar Heel Legislature delegate for Hertford County, Rev. Dr. Claude Odom stands in support of Hertford County Office of Aging Senior Center during September’s Senior Center Month, designated by Governor Cooper’s proclamation.

We applaud the dedication of the senior center staff which serves an average of 300 older adults every month, supported by nearly 40 volunteers.

Last year, North Carolina’s 171 senior centers served more than 148,000 people, providing access to education, exercise, nutrition, socialization, enrichment, and recreation programs that enhance life and health outcomes.

This year, the NC Senior Tar Heel Legislature recommended to the NC General Assembly (NCGA) the appropriation of $1,265,316 in additional recurring general purpose funds for senior centers to support expanded programs and staffing needs. The NCGA did not support this recommendation.

Since 2004, funding for senior centers has remained flat at $1,265,316 per year, with a one-time non-recurring increase in SFY 07-08 of $200,000. During this timeframe, the age 60+ population has nearly doubled from 1.3 million in 2000 to nearly 2.6 million in 2023. When adjusted for inflation, the funding amount has decreased by 18%.

The failure to match senior center funding to the growth of the older adult population has resulted not only in the failure to serve our state’s older adults, but also in a disincentive in the state’s certification process, which designates uncertified, center of merit, and center of excellence for senior centers. Many senior centers are unable to expand their facilities and staff to keep up with demand. Increased waiting lists for home delivered meals means that more elderly face hunger. Inadequate funding for programs such as in-home aide results in elder neglect and a state of crisis for family caregivers.

In the 2021 census, Hertford County population was listed at 21,278 of which 21.6% were 65 years of age or older. In the National Ranking North Carolina ranks 8th in population 65 years of age or older.

While the NC General Assembly did not adopt the NCSTHL’s recommendation for increased general-purpose funding for our senior centers this year, the NCSTHL is committed to raise awareness of the growing need for support and protection of our cherished older adults. We invite everyone who is or has a significant senior in their lives to advocate with our NC senators and house representatives to appropriate needed funds to support vibrant senior centers that are proven to improve well-being and lower the medical and direct care expenses of aging.

Dr. Claude Odom

Hertford County NCSTHL Delegate