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Our Aging Population

If you think you’re seeing more senior citizens around Tuolumne County these days, you’re right.

The latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show that the county’s overall population has declined by 3 percent this decade — from 55,365 people in 2010 to 53,709 in 2015 — while the number of people age 65 and over grew over the same period, from 20.4 percent to 24.2 percent.

That means nearly one in four people in Tuolumne County — more than 13,000 of them — are 65 or older. This compares with 12.5 percent statewide and 14.1 percent nationally. If you add people age 62 and over, the county’s percentage grows to 28.8, and with people age 50 and over, the number accounts for about half the total population.

“Seniors are an important part of our economy and without their economic contribution through pensions and retirement income many of the services we enjoy in our community simply would not exist,” noted Larry Cope, chief executive officer of the Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority.

Some benefits resulting from the senior component:

  • Current and expanding health care options that are nearly unheard of in a community of our size and remoteness.
  • An active and diverse arts and theater community due to the higher disposable income.
  • High retail sales relative to our per capita population due to the disposable income of our more well-to-do retirees.
  • Diverse non-profits that are filled with volunteers who are taking part of their retirement time and giving back to the community.

Providing services to seniors has a major impact on our local economy, perhaps most notably seen in Sonora Regional Medical Center’s significant and continuing expansion in staffing and facilities.

Activities are offered on a regular basis at two senior centers (one by the Sonora Library and also the Fire Museum) and one in Groveland, plus the Tuolumne County Recreation Department offers a free senior recreation program for ages 50 and up every Monday morning at the Tuolumne Youth Center. Columbia College offers specialized exercise classes for seniors, while the Area 12 Agency on Aging links older adults and caregivers to the critical services and community resources they need.

I think it’s safe to say most people look forward to a life of leisure in retirement. Their kids are grown, their work is complete, they’ve saved some money and now it’s time for them to enjoy their golden years.

Most would agree it’s also important to stay mentally and physically active — and many seniors do this by serving as community volunteers.

“With a lifetime of wisdom, our seniors are one of our greatest treasures,” declared Sheriff Jim Mele, adding “That is why our Community Service Unit is one of the hidden treasures of the Sheriff’s Office.”

Volunteers also are highly treasured at schools, animal shelters, food pantries, libraries, state parks, theaters, youth organizations, hospitals and countless other places.

Yet as actress Bette Davis once famously said, “Old age is no place for sissies.”

Seniors must constantly be alert to potential personal and financial perils. Some of these may be beyond their control, such as disasters on Wall Street or unforeseen health issues, but proper awareness and planning may help avoid such ordeals as telephone scams, elder abuse, tax blunders and the like.

For all those reasons and more, the Sonora Area Foundation will present a free Senior Family Forum from 8:45 a.m. to noon Thursday, May 3, at Sierra Bible Church, 15171 Tuolumne Road, across from Standard Park.

Topics will include tax issues, estate planning, conservatorships, elder abuse, scams, grandparents’ rights, trusts, and more.

Guest speakers will include Sheriff Mele, Judge Kate Powell-Segerstrom and a variety of community experts. There will be no sales of products or services.

Reservations are not required and light refreshments will be served.

For more information, call Sonora Area Foundation at 533-2596.