FAIRFIELD — Solano County is poised to increase its focus on senior issues, even as county officials say a “silver tsunami” is headed this way.
County supervisors in late March heard a report from the Senior Coalition, their senior advisory group. They responded by asking county staff to come back with a strategy to address the various challenges facing seniors.
“I think the county has always been involved in senior issues,” Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Linda Seifert said in an interview. “I’d like to think because of the upturn in the economy, we’re going to be able to commit more resources than we have recently.”
Any financial commitment would come as the board works on the 2014-15 budget, she said. Budget hearings are typically in late June.
Members of the Senior Coalition talked to Seifert several months ago and presented various reports to her on issues such as senior falls, drug dependency and poverty.
“I suggested what we needed to do was give these papers a voice,” Seifert said. “They needed to get out in the public domain where people who have the ability to address these issues could begin to bring out what their role might be to address these issues.”
About 46,000 Solano County residents are 65 years old or older, accounting for 11 percent of the county’s population. This is expected to grow to 75,000 residents by 2030, a county report said.
The Senior Coalition put its concerns into the spotlight at the March 25 Board of Supervisors meeting. Rochelle Sherlock of the Senior Coalition focused on three topics: senior fall prevention, senior poverty and elder abuse.
Over five years, Solano County has had about 3,500 hospitalizations resulting from seniors falling and getting hurt. That comes to about $131 million in hospital costs, a Senior Coalition report said.
That struck a chord with some of the supervisors.
“I personally had a grandmother who fell multiple times,” Supervisor Erin Hannigan said. “Ultimately, I think it resulted in her early death.”
Poverty is also a problem, Sherlock said. About 3,542 Solano County residents age 65 or older, or 7.1 percent, live below the federal poverty level, she said.
Sherlock sees the situation as being worse than those numbers suggest. The estimated cost for a single-family household to live in Solano County is $22,000 annually, double the federal poverty level, she said. Although it’s not a precise correlation, the county has 7,500 seniors, or 26 percent, making less than $25,000 annually.
Nor does Sherlock see trends as being encouraging. People 10 years from retirement have a median retirement savings of $12,000, she told supervisors.
“Poverty is going to be a big issue,” Sherlock said.
Among the Senior Coalition recommendations:
Supervisor John Vasquez sees the Board of Supervisors as a good place to address senior issues.
“I think that’s one of the things the board is really good at doing, is bringing people to the table,” Vasquez said. “If we call for it, they’ll show up.”
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.