TOWNSEND/PEPPERELL — The population is aging with people over age 65, as measured by social security payments, rising steadily since 2003.
Those numbers will continue to increase locally, according the Donahue Institute. Elders will become an increasingly large segment of the population in Townsend and Pepperell between 2010 and 2030.
The Institute projects that both towns will see a decrease in the total population during those same years.
Social Security is a federal program that provides disability benefits as well as retirement benefits. The University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute provides services to government, business and nonprofit organizations.
The same trends hold true throughout Massachusetts in statistics provided from Massachusetts Home Care by Townsend Director of the Council on Aging, Karin Canfield Moore.
The percentage of seniors in the total population will jump 50 percent between 2010 and 2030. People over 65 were 14 percent of the Massachusetts population in 2010. In 2030, they will be 21 percent of the population.
The state of Massachusetts defines a senior as someone 60 years of age or older.
“It’s been predicted for a long time,” said Townsend Town Administrator Andy Sheehan. “On the local level it will force some changes in the services we provide.”
“It could be things we frankly haven’t even thought of yet,” he said.
Townsend and Pepperell each have an active senior center, run by the Council on Aging. For each resident over 60 in town, the centers receive $8, or a minimum amount of $4,000 per municipality.
This formula grant is based on the most recent census, 2010. Townsend receives $11,269 and Pepperell $14,912. What the money can be used for is flexible, Canfield Moore said. The state reimburses funds once they are spent.
Transportation services for seniors are provided through the Lowell Regional Transit Authority.
Other grants pay for special programs and sometimes staff. The volunteer coordinator position in Townsend, for example, is partially funded by a grant.
The municipal budget for the Townsend COA in 2015 was $82,534. Nearly $75,000 of that was wages, the rest for other expenses like supplies and professional services.
In Pepperell, the town appropriated $165,909 for fiscal year 2015.
As the population ages, Canfield Moore sees a demand for different hours, at least from the 60 to 70 year old group. “Evening and Saturday hours would be huge for that crowd,” she said.
Pepperell is already responding to the need for non-traditional hours. They are planning workshops on Saturday mornings, said COA Director Susan McCarthy.
The Townsend Senior Center, built in 2010, is very busy during the weekdays. “We’re already pushing the limits,” Canfield Moore said.
The COA is also a prime player in keeping people out of nursing homes.
“I’m big on trying to keep people at home if they want to be at home,” Canfield Moore said.
If she has a concern about an individual, her first contact is the town nurse from Nashoba Associated Boards of Health. Then, if needed, she might connect families with Montachusett Home Care to help find in-home help.
Although the region and the country is seeing an increase in the senior population and a decline in school aged children, at some point, the school age population will spring back up again, Sheehan said.
“Nothing is ever static,” he said. “We have to change as the times change.”