MOCKSVILLE, N.C. — Older adults in Davie County sometimes find themselves elbow-to-elbow while exercising or eating in the county’s Senior Center on Meroney Drive, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
The Davie County Commissioners recently voted to allocate $800,000 to Davie County Senior Services in the 2014-15 budget for a 2,500-square-foot expansion of the Senior Center to help alleviate the overcrowding.
Since the opening of the Senior Center in 2007, its use has grown, a reflection of the county’s booming senior population.
In 1990, the percentage of adults 55 and older made up 23.6 percent of the county’s population. In 2010, that percentage jumped to 30.6. And in 2030, that number is projected to increase to 32.5 percent, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Meanwhile, the percentage of the county’s population 18 and younger is slowly inching downward.
Communities across the country are experiencing an increase in older adults as the baby boomers age. Davie County’s population is growing older at a rate slightly above the state average, said Kim Shuskey, the director of Senior Services.
In the 12-county region served by the Piedmont Triad Regional Council’s Area Agency on Aging, Davie was tied with Forsyth County for projected growth in the 60 and older population between 2010 and 2030.
That increase is being felt at the Senior Center, a 10,600-square-foot facility that has a fitness room, lunch room and several classrooms among its amenities.
“We knew going in (in 2007) that it would not be adequate for very long,” Shuskey said. “The past three years or so, we’ve really started to notice it in the fitness and lunch areas.”
Usage of the Senior Center was up 4.5 percent in 2012-13 from the previous year, Shuskey said.
Older adults are taking advantage of the fitness opportunities. Of the 26,558 visits to the Senior Center in 2012-13, 7,038 were for an organized exercise class, an increase of 1,682 from the previous year.
Several classes have been added to accommodate the larger crowds. During line dancing classes, the participants will take turn dancing and then sitting out.
Fred Voreh is among those who visit the Senior Center for its fitness equipment and classes, all of which are free to those aged 60 and older.
“A lot of seniors are living on low income or just Social Security, so we have a large group of seniors who are in that neighborhood,” said Voreh, the chairman of the county’s Aging Services Planning Committee. “And there’s a great need to socialize.”
The lunchroom, which serves free meals to about 55 people each day, is also nearly always full.
In addition, the center needs space for workshops and seminars on such topics as diabetes, raising grandchildren and issues related to dementia.
Voreh said the expansion is a pressing issue.
“It’s been talked about for a few years. But with the county needing other things, and the economic downturn, that didn’t solve the problem of the county’s aging so we’re trying to catch up with the needs of the elderly in Davie County,” he said.
The appropriation from the commissioners won’t pay for all those needs.
“It will help us to alleviate immediate needs right now,” Shuskey said.
A capital campaign to raise money for other additions will be under way soon. “We would like to build on this momentum,” Shuskey said.
Though officials with Senior Services have known for a few years that they needed an addition to the Senior Center, this is the first year that Shuskey included it as a budget request.
In her budget request, Shuskey offered to raise $50,000 of the $800,000 necessary, but the commissioners voted 3-2 to finance all of it.
The $800,000 is an estimate based on preliminary talks with an architect.
The county will use money from its fund balance to pay for the expansion, a move that prompted Commissioners Terry Renegar and Richard Poindexter to vote against it.