Northwestern Michigan In Need of More Senior Citizen Services as 60+ Population Grows Rapidly

The population of Baby Boomers is, well, booming.

The senior population is outpacing the amount of young people in many local counties, according to new data from the Area Agency on Aging in Northwest Michigan.

People 60 and up make up nearly a third of the region.

According to census data, Michigan is the state with the 12th oldest population in the country, with a median age of 40 years old, but it’s as high as 56 in Roscommon County and 54 in Leelanau County.

With more and more elderly people, there’s more demand than ever for services, facilities and workforce that caters to their needs.

Lori Wells is the manager of the Senior Center Network in Traverse City and says her building is practically bursting at the seams.

“Our membership is growing exponentially, when I started 25 years ago, we had less than 500 members. Today, we have over 5,000,” said Wells. “That’s the main reason that we’re looking to build a new senior center, because the building that we have right now is not equipped to handle the growing population.”

In September, the Traverse City board of commissioners passed a resolution to build a new center to accommodate its growing needs.

The 49 year old building will be expanded to handle the more than 200 activities (and counting!) that it hosts.

The Grand Traverse County Commission on Aging says more services are desperately needed to serve the older population.

Their office accommodates homebound seniors that need help cleaning, mowing, shoveling snow and getting around town. As the population of elderly people increases, the department is investigating new ways to improve access to transportation and services.

“If you see it increasing this much over a short period of time we will need more caregivers, more staff,” said Cynthia Kienlen, the director of the commission. “We have huge waitlists for everything, all of our services.”

In Traverse City, Kienlen says seniors will make up a third of the population by 2021.