Communities plan for future senior population

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Sisters Betty Stenftenagel, left, and Norma Hasenour, both of Jasper, joked with each other while playing bingo Tuesday afternoon at the Arnold F. Habig Community Center in Jasper. Bingo is played every other week and according to Older Americans Director Carie Dick, around 80 people attend the bingo games.


Local communities are aware that the senior population has been consistently growing.

And they are preparing for the influx, which is expected to become the dominant population in 12 years. A flurry of projects and assessments are being done now, to prepare for the future.

According to U.S. Census projections, the population that is 65 and older will become the largest part of Dubois County’s overall population by 2030, and will stay that way until 2050.

“This is a hot topic,” said Kaci Wehr, community engagement coordinator for the Arnold F. Habig Community Center in Jasper, which is the center geared toward activities for residents age 55 and older. “This group will be looking for its options to remain active, and to age in place. They will be tech savvy. So the options offered to them will have to be tailored to them.”

Projections show Dubois County’s population being 45,218 by 2030. Of that, 10,658, or 23.6 percent, will be seniors who are age 65 and older. The group in a close second will be young adults between age 25 an 44, at 10,632 (23.5 percent).

But the 65-plus adults will gain more population in the following years, the Census predicts. By 2035, that group will be 24.5 percent of Dubois County’s population, with 11,204 people. Young adults will be 23.1 percent of the population, with 10,562 people.

By 2045, older adults, those between 45 and 64, and seniors will be the biggest populations, at 11,009 and 11,034, respectively. In 2050, the populations will be at 11,085 (24.7 percent) and 10,961 (24.4 percent) respectively.

Meanwhile, young adults will make up 20.1 percent of the population in 2045 (9,125) and 20.3 percent (9,110) in 2050.

Kathy Hart of Jasper celebrated getting a bingo Tuesday afternoon.

Nationally, the senior population will be more than the child population by 2035, which will be a first for the country, Census demographer Jonathan Vespa wrote in a Census report on the country’s aging population. People age 65 and over are expected to number 78 million, while children under age 18 will number 76.4 million.

“With this swelling number of older adults,” Vespa wrote, “the country could see greater demands for healthcare, in-home caregiving and assisted living facilities.”

Wehr said that the Habig Center has things like its exercise room and organizes group activities already, like day trips and outings, that will likely cater to the future senior population. The center is also looking at growing its exercise class offerings. “We want to add more options,” she said.

“As the baby boomers reach this age group, we’re looking to have programming to reach them,” Wehr said. “This group will also be more tech savvy, so we’re using those ways to reach them, such as using social media to share all that we have to offer.”

The center also wants to have activities that appeal to the new demographic when it comes. “We want to talk to them to see what they are interested in,” Wehr said. “For instance, one of the big things people did in the past was quilting. But that may not appeal to this newer group; they may be interested in things like Pinterest or canvas painting. We want to offer what is of interest now, and what will be of interest then.”

Huntingburg plans to establish a senior center in the next year or two, Park Director Larry Altstadt said. The center would be bigger and likely its own facility, unlike the current senior rooms that were housed at Old Town Hall before Market Street construction started. “That is definitely one of the city’s goals to get accomplish in a year of so,” he said.

Increasing senior housing has been a focus of local communities. The Lofts at St. Joseph’s and Stork Place have been added in Huntingburg as senior living facilities. The Lofts, which opened in August 2016, includes 45 apartments for seniors and most of those are full at the moment. Stork Place, which tends to stay full, opened next door to City Hall in 2011, with 17 two-bedroom apartments on three floors.

A larger senior living community is being built in Ferdinand.

Trilogy Health Services, which runs Scenic Hills Care Center, is constructing a 74,000-square-foot facility near St. Benedict Drive and East Fifth Street, which is the Sisters of St. Benedict grounds. The new facility will be able to serve 129 residents, will have 40 more beds than Scenic Hills and will include assisted living services.

Once completed next year, the residents and staff at Scenic Hills will move to the new facility. Trilogy is considering renovating Scenic Hills after that, to become an “assisted living facility for very light services,” Trilogy officials have said.

Jasper has two senior living facilities under construction. Vine Street Lofts is expected to open next year at 1316 Vine St. The site, which is the former Jasper Wood Products building, will become 62 apartments for people age 55 and over. And Legacy Living Jasper is planned for the west side of the city, at 1850 W. State Road 56. The site, once completed next year, will include 18 town homes, a main building with 70 independent and assisted-living apartments and 25 memory care apartments. The development will also include several indoor and outdoor amenities, some of which are raised garden beds, a fitness center, a movie theater and a playground for residents’ grandchildren or great-grandchildren.

Health care will also be a focus for communities.

Plans for a behavioral facility are underway for part of the former St. Joseph’s Hospital building in Huntingburg. When completed later this year, the facility will have services for people of all ages in different categories, such as veterans’ post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse. But a big part of the facility will be the behavioral health unit geared to the elderly; it will have 16 of the facility’s 40 beds.

Jasper will look at health care matters as well as quality of life needs as it works on updating its comprehensive plan. That process has just started.

“The comprehensive plan will take a look at the needs of our community,” said Darla Blazey, the city’s director of community development and planning. “We will look at needs and programs for that demographic, as well as all demographics.”

The new plan will take at least a year to complete and will be good for the next 10 to 15 years, she said.

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