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2003 News from Mecklenburg County

MAY 22, 2003


CHARLOTTE, NC -- A report that highlights the issues and concerns of Mecklenburg County's residents, age 60 and older, gives details about the current lifestyle of seniors and offers insight into what the growing population will look like in later years.

"The Mecklenburg County Status of Seniors Report" says an estimated 80,440 people who are 60 and older live in the County. Population projections for the year 2030 show that number nearly tripling to 243,619. That means an increased demand for services and different ways of doing business.

Preparing for the expected population growth, even five to 10 years out when the Baby Boomers -- those people born between 1946 and 1964 -- reach their 60s, is something the community must address now, advocates and service providers say. That's why the report, requested in May 2002 by the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), is a crucial first step in planning.

At its 5 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, May 20, the BOCC voted to accept the "Status of Seniors Report." Gainor Eisenlohr, chairwoman of the Social Services Committee of the Mecklenburg County Human Services Council, presented a summary of the report to the BOCC.

The report's sponsors include Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services; the Social Services Committee of the Mecklenburg County Human Services Council; United Way of Central Carolinas and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Aging Coalition; the Centralina Council of Governments Area Agency on Aging, and the Council on Aging.

Supporters of the report recommend forming an Executive Advisory Committee, which would create a strategic plan for the community, using the report and other relevant findings. The proposed committee would become champions for issues concerning seniors.

"We want to focus on the quality of life and the future for our senior population," said Richard W. "Jake" Jacobsen, director of the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services (DSS). "This report represents step one of a two-step process that will culminate in a report back to the Board of County Commissioners with a strategic plan."

Jacobsen is the luncheon speaker at the annual Successful Aging Forum sponsored by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Council on Aging today, Thursday, May 22, at the Adams Mark Hotel. He will present an overview of the Status of Seniors Report and share some key findings and headlines. For example:

· While 84 percent of seniors report their health as good or excellent, there are several areas where racial and income disparities are stark. For example, of those earning less than $20,000 a year, 35 percent stated they felt "down," depressed or hopeless compared to 11 percent of those earning $20,000 or more.

· Prescriptions present enormous challenges to many seniors. For example, 86 percent report taking prescribed medications and 16 percent reported having gone without other essentials such as rent, food or utilities in order to purchase needed medications.

· Forty-five percent of seniors in Mecklenburg County live on $20,000 a year or less and spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

· Forty-six percent of seniors reported not receiving the help they needed with activities of daily living, for example walking or bathing.

The report was compiled using information from the following sources: The 2002 Mecklenburg Older Adults Survey, the annual UNC Charlotte Urban Institute Surveys, Mecklenburg focus groups, and the US Census (1990 and 2000).

The "Mecklenburg County Status of Seniors Report" and the Executive Summary.

May is recognized nationally as "Older American's Month."

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