A report from the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disabilities (TCAD) shows senior populations are rising in the Upper Cumberland.
TCAD’s 2019 State of Aging report indicates Upper Cumberland counties have experienced senior growths between 1.67 and 3.5 percent.
UCHRA Executive Director Mark Farley said the agency works to address the needs of seniors across the region.
“We are in a region that is becoming much older every year,” Farley said. “Our average age is increasing, our senior population is growing probably at a faster rate than any other place in the state. So we really have to be cognizant of that and try to make sure we’re providing relevant programs to keep the seniors active, keep them engaged and have social settings as well.”
According to TCAD’s report, nearly 74,000 seniors live in the Upper Cumberland as of 2019, up nearly 2,000 from the previous year.
Farley said today’s senior population provides new opportunities to provide different types of services compared to years past.
“When you look at the senior population [now], we’ve got a different senior population than we used to have 20-30 years ago,” Farley said. “They’re far more technologically savvy, they’re far more mobile, and we’ve got to make sure they’re able to continue traveling, continue getting out of their home to interact with other people and also get the needed services they need.”
The report also breaks down different categories including the number of seniors living alone. According to the state’s findings, approximately 458 fewer seniors are living alone compared to 2018, while some areas like Macon, Putnam, and Smith counties saw increases.
Farley said some of the UCHRA’s programs, such as MyRideTN, allows for seniors who live alone to get out and enjoy life.
“Because of their physical limitations, it’s hard for them to get on the buses and to travel through the public transit system,” Farley said. “The idea of this is you bring somebody that is willing to volunteer and can take that extra time to spend with them, get them out of their home, get them loaded into a vehicle, take them to wherever they need to go and also spend time with them there as well.”
Other initiatives such as the UCHRA’s nutrition program, Farley said, not only provide meals to those in need but allows the agency to check-in on some of their most vulnerable clients.
“There’s a lot of people – and it’s hard for some of us to understand – that don’t have the family structure and the social structure that we have,” Farley said, “and to have the aility to check-in on them daily or weekly, that’s just the security blanket that those individuals have that somebody is watching over them. Our nutrition program traditionally has been able to provide that for many seniors.”
According to the report, Cumberland County has the highest senior population in the Upper Cumberland with 18,881 residents.
TCAD’s State of Aging reports for 2018 and 2019 can be found through the Commission’s website. Data also includes the number of senior residents living with multiple chronic illnesses, livability statistics, and the number of grandparents raising grandchildren for each county.Face