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Senior Center looks for ways to keep serving constituents

by Lorien Nettleton ~ April 17th, 2012

Increasing fuel prices hurt everyone, and expenditures relating to fuel prices, the Upper Susitna Seniors, Inc. may be facing a shortfall of funds in the next year unless some new sources of funding can be lined up.

The Senior Center, located on Helena Ave near the Y intersection of the parks highway and Talkeetna spur road, hosts 6 independent living apartments for seniors. Increases in the cost of fuel have already forced the nonprofit to increase rates for the housing once this year, bumping the cost of a single bed apartment by an additional 129 dollars a month. Senior Center Board members fear a continued increase in fuel prices may leave them no choice but to increase rents again just to break even.

Senior Center Board Chairman Herman Thompson is hoping a new Needs Assessment being conducted by a consortium of health service providers will turn up some good news for the Center. The Mat-Su Community Needs Assesment is a borough-wide effort to survey health needs on a recurring 3-year basis. Still in its early stages, the Assessment will soon identify a group of 20 to 30 key health indicators and then survey each zipcode in the borough. The scope of the study is huge, and could include factors such as obesity and smoking rates, education, even environmental elements like playgrounds and sidewalks could be included in the data.

A similar study focused on the needs of seniors was completed last year. It showed that Seniors in the borough are a largely unknown demographic, due to the large rural area. The coming Needs Assessment will be trying to fill in information about that demographic, and Thompson is hopeful the  assessment results will help organizations like the Upper Susitna Senior Center in obtaining funding.

Monetary needs for senior services will only increase in the future. According to the McDowell Group, current services in the Mat Su Valley won’t be sufficient to support future demand. By the year 2030, people aged 65-to-74 will more than double in number while the ages 75 to 84 will triple. The projected rate of senior population growth in the Mat-Su is roughly five times the national average.

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