County prepares care plan for aging

They may be getting older, but they’re still “booming.”

The area’s large population of baby boomers is surviving, creating a rapidly growing elderly population that the county must prepare for.

“We want to be on the forefront of a senior-friendly and livable community,” said John Eller, director of Catawba County Social Services. “As we age, we want to make sure Catawba County is a place where we want that to happen."

During the last decade, the number of people ages 65-74 grew by 28.3 percent in the county. During that same time, residents ages 75-84 grew by 14 percent and those ages 85 and older grew by 43.8 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Like many areas throughout the nation, Catawba County will be forced to manage this growing elderly population and create additional programs and services to meet their needs. County officials say that starts with a new aging plan.

The plan, which will be led by Catawba County Social Services, lists 38 objectives in eight different areas to be accomplished from 2011-15.

Some key objectives include establishing an aging coalition and creating a care program for the elderly, but social services officials say the plan will also address access to information, technology and health and safety.

On Monday, Catawba County commissioners accepted the aging plan and transferred adult wards — formerly controlled by mental Health Partners — to social services.

To construct the aging plan, social services constructed a team of 114 county residents from 65 agencies and organizations throughout the county. They surveyed more than 1,000 residents from the senior community, asking them questions about what is lacking, working and needed in their lives.

After analyzing responses, officials constructed the plan.
“We have to be ready to meet the challenge of our older adults,” Eller said.

A significant objective in the aging plan is the construction of an aging coalition. The coalition will promote the general well being of older adults and their caregivers as well as advise the community and elected officials about aging issues, according to social services.

Another key objective is the establishment of a local Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) program.

Using existing resources in the county like Palliative Care and Hospice of Catawba Valley and Catawba Valley Medical Center, officials feel the goals can become reality.

“I think it’s a good plan and lets older adults know these things are out there while we’re getting older,” said county commissioner Dan Hunsucker.

For more information or details on the aging plan, visit