A growing need for senior resources
By Carole Townsend
Data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau reveals interesting statistics about Gwinnett County. Not only is the county’s burgeoning population increasingly diverse (a fact that is often referenced when health care services and schools are mentioned), but there is another steadily but quietly growing population.
Senior citizens now comprise an estimated 16 percent of Gwinnett’s citizens. That may not sound like many, but 16 percent of an estimated 900,000 is 144,000 people. And that number grows every day.
People are living longer. We can thank advances in health care and healthier lifestyles for that. But a growing senior population brings with it some evolving community needs. Surveys show that senior citizens want to live in communities in which they can walk to libraries, restaurants and shopping. Studies tell us that many seniors want to age in place, meaning that they do not want to leave their longtime homes at all as their needs change. Seniors very often want to live near top-notch healthcare facilities, and conveniently near their own personal physicians. And make no mistake, current and rising senior citizens in Gwinnett have opinions and a strong a voice in what they want to see in their communities.
“My wife and I have lived in Gwinnett County since the 1970s. We bought our first home here, and our second. We raised our family here. We want to live out our lives here, but some things will have to change,” said Norcross resident Albert Morentz. Among the changes Morentz wants to see are more affordable homes for seniors. “I like the thought of living right where we shop and see our doctors, but we don’t want to have to pay $400,000 for a smaller home than the one we have now.”
How does a community that has for so long focused on school and land development, now set its sights on accommodating the very people whose children attended Gwinnett schools, and who have lived in the houses built here in the 1970s, 80s and 90s? If their needs are not met, it’s likely that those same people will move out of the county to find what they want elsewhere.
Gwinnett County is trying to answer the various needs of this growing segment of its population. Seniors likely have more income at their disposal than do young people, but not always. There is a need for affordable housing for seniors, and there is a need for truly walkable communities. There is a need for various healthcare, home care and personal care services. Seniors are not only living longer, but they are healthier well into their golden years; they want to be involved in their communities and remain mentally and physically active. Recreation Centers and transportation assistance therefore matter to seniors.
What does Gwinnett have to offer its seniors now?
Gwinnett Senior Services is a group of targeted services aimed at answering the growing call for senior-friendly communities, facilities and services. Based on certain criteria (note: not always income-based), senior citizens in Gwinnett have access to meal delivery, in-home care and other assistance that allow them to stay in their homes longer, and that matters to many seniors. Below is a list of some, certainly not all, of the services available to Gwinnett County seniors.
For a complete list and details, visit www.gwinnettcounty.com
The Friends of Gwinnett County Senior Services is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) volunteer-run organization dedicated to raising funds to privately support or supplement certain senior programs in Gwinnett. Our county has the second largest senior population in Georgia. For information on supported services, or for details outlining how to donate or volunteer, visit http://www.fogcss.com
This is a free service which provides seniors and their caregivers answers to questions about senior issues. It offers up-to-date information on housing, nutrition, social security, legal aid, counseling, education, recreation, rehab services, health care, Medicare and Medicaid, adult abuse and neglect, nursing homes and much more. Call 678.377.4150 Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 5:00pm.
To speak to someone in person, please visit the Gwinnett Senior Services Center at 567 Swanson Drive, Lawrenceville, GA 30043.
Gwinnett provides a transportation voucher for senior citizens.
The voucher program, called “Get in Gear,” allows senior citizens to pay transportation providers to drive them to doctor appointments, recreational activities and more. Select “Transportation” on the Gwinnett Senior Services website: https://www.gwinnettcounty.com/portal/gwinnett/Departments/
Home Delivered Meals
This service assists seniors who are homebound or who are unable to prepare their own meals.
Meals on Wheels delivers frozen, chilled, or hot meals on a regular basis Monday through Friday.
The meals are tailored to meet the nutritional needs of seniors. For inquiries about eligibility to receive meals, call 678.377.4150. For information on becoming a Meals on Wheels volunteer, call 678.377.6716.
Right: the Limbo Contest
In January 2014, Gwinnett opened a new state-of-the-art, 12,000 sq. ft. commercial kitchen at the Senior Center, bolstering the county’s ability to offer meals to seniors and caregivers who need them. The facility gives meal preparation staff the capacity to prepare 2,000 meals per day, tripling the previous production.
This service helps to meet basic needs through light housekeeping. For information, call 678.377.4150.
In-home Respite Care
The Respite Program is designed for those with or without dementia. It provides caregivers of seniors a much-needed break from caring for their loved ones. For information, call 678.377.4150.
Senior Activity Centers
Gwinnett County provides several senior recreation facilities throughout the county. Locations are:
Buford Senior Center in Buford Human Services Center
2755 Sawnee Ave
Buford, GA 30518-2560
Centerville Senior Center
In June, Gwinnett officials announced a coming $2.24 million senior facility coming to Centerville, adjacent to the Community Center. Until its completion, contact: Centerville Community Center (closed on Thursdays)
3025 Bethany Church Road
Snellville, GA 30039
Lawrenceville Senior Center
Rhodes Jordan Park
225 Benson St
Lawrenceville, GA 30046-4955
Norcross Senior Center
Norcross Human Services Center
5030 Georgia Belle Ct
Norcross, GA 30093-2667
Senior recreational clubs
Best Friend Club, 678-277-0860
Bogan Gold Wing, 678-277-0850
Dacula Rainbow, 678-277-0850
Get Up & Go, 770-822-5414
Lawrenceville Fun Time:
Shorty Howell Hi-Steppers:
Suwanee Goodtimers: 678-277-0910
Affordable Senior Housing
www.seniorhousingnet.com is an online resource that gathers information from a variety of housing options in one location.
www.affordablehousing.com is a service overseen by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. The service is designed to alert subscribers to the availability of Section 8, or low income, housing in Gwinnett.
Currently, the waiting list is closed. However, the housing needs of seniors vary greatly. Some seniors want independent living facilities, homes in which they live unencumbered by tasks such as lawn and major meal preparation. Others require nursing care or other assistance in their residences. Several online services list such facilities; a noted few are www.caring.com, www.after55.com and www.seniorhomes.com
Gwinnett also offers tax exemptions for property owners, which include two for seniors.
Children and loved ones often become involved in the care of a parent or other elderly person when signs of such a need are present. However, experts recommend that children and parents engage in conversation about the wishes and needs of the senior; decisions about care, housing, etc., are best made before the needs arise, with the input of the aging parent or loved one. Transitions can be difficult for anyone, but fears can be eased by involving seniors in their own care. AARP offers an excellent resource for elderly care planning and sometimes difficult discussions: http://assets.aarp.org/www.aarp.org_/articles/foundation/aa66r2_care.pdf .