Older Americans Month: Blazing a trail
By Charlotte J. Nash, Chairman
Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners
Over the next 13 years, baby boomers will be reaching retirement age in record numbers, growing to more than 20 percent of America’s population by 2029. Gwinnett’s over-60 population has already more than doubled from 46,216 in 2000 to 121,751 in 2015 and will nearly double again over the next 25 years.
As individuals, and as a community, we need to be planning for many different aspects of that demographic shift.
Today’s older Americans are setting a great example of how to get the most out of retirement. More than a quarter are volunteering – often as much as 10 to 20 hours a week. In return, they get better mental and physical health, greater life satisfaction, new friends and relationships, and a sense of purpose. Considering that 80 percent of older Americans have at least one chronic health condition, their accomplishments are amazing. They’re not just adding years to their life, they’re adding life to their years.
Gwinnett County proudly recognizes and appreciates the contributions older adults are making to our society. Thanks to voter approval of the current SPLOST program, Gwinnett County will soon begin construction of a new Centerville Senior Center, adjacent to the community center and branch library on Bethany Church Road near Snellville.
The 8,500 square-foot, $2.25 million facility will have a dining room, warming kitchen with serving line, multi-purpose room, billiards area, staff offices, and support space. It will be a nutrition site offering healthy meals that meet one-third of daily recommended intake. Programming will promote healthy lifestyles and celebrate the diversity of older Gwinnett residents with activities that promote health, wellness, and socialization.
SPLOST also helped to fund recent renovations at the Lawrenceville Senior Center at 225 Benson Street that opened 22 years ago in 1994. The improvements are designed for individuals with low vision, hearing impairments, and mobility challenges and include upgraded ADA-accessible restrooms, an enlarged dining area, a more accessible food service line, upgraded billiards room, a new card room area, a new hearing loop system for the hearing impaired, and a new multi-use room. The existing patio has been enclosed to become a fitness room and there’s a new entry vestibule as well. The center will reopen this month.
The County’s Health and Human Services department offers similar senior centers in Buford and Norcross while Parks and Recreation operates senior recreation centers at Bethesda Park and George Pierce Park.
All our Health and Human Services-run senior centers are safe, fun gathering places for adults 60 and older with planned activities that include speakers, entertainment, exercise, arts and crafts, games, and interesting day trips. Participants get hot, balanced lunches on weekdays. There are no membership fees, but some classes and trips have small costs. Limited transportation is available. For more information, call 770.822.5180.
Retirement is also a great time to explore the arts, travel, learn a language, or find ways to put a lifetime of experience to work by giving back to the community. Your county government has lots of volunteer opportunities for all ages available online at www.volunteergwinnett.net.
So get out there and enjoy this time of your life!