The Dexter Senior Center operates on a budget of $50,000 a year. And they are growing fast. The baby boomer generation is aging and to keep up with demand across the Dexter area, they are looking for new sources of funding.
Webster Township voted to renew their commitment of $4,500 a year at their township board meeting last month. DSC Executive Director Wendy Smith said that while her search for funding is on a definite upswing, additional funding sources are necessary to meet her organization’s growing operating expenses.
Webster saw a 112 percent increase in seniors from 2000 to 2010, according to senior center data. By 2015 there were 1,276 seniors in Webster Township, which comprises 17 percent of the township’s total population.
“In 2020 Webster Township will have approximately 403 more adults than school age children,” Smith said to the Webster Township Board of Trustees at their most recent meeting.
Smith was at the meeting to thank the board for their support over the years. She is in the process of applying for a renewal of $2,000 her organization gets from Dexter Township. They will vote later this month. The city of Dexter has already pledged $1,000 for the 2016-17 fiscal year. They are also seeking $1,700 from Scio Township.
Smith reiterated the problem that the center faces by pointing out that these amounts are flat while the demands of the growing senior demographic are on the rise. Webster Township gave the same amount last year and so did Dexter Township.
Baby boomers are entering their senior years in greater numbers with each passing day. According to the last US Census estimate in 2014, there were 852 seniors in Webster Township — up from the 542 seniors the township had in 2010.
Senior center staff estimates that by 2020 Webster Township will have approximately 403 more adults 60 years-of-age or above than the township has school age children, and by 2030 the number of older adults with double.
It’s much the same story across the Dexter area. Dexter Township had 660 seniors in 2010. That went up to 871 in 2014. Similarly, Scio Township’s senior population went from 2,189 to 2,503 in the same period.
And then there is the Area Agency on Aging 1-B. This is one of 16 local non-profit agencies across the state. 1-B serves seniors in the southeast Michigan counties surrounding Detroit. They provide support for Washtenaw County’s eight senior centers, including Dexter’s. It was founded in 1974 and is one of over a dozen agencies. Wayne County has two agencies just on its own. In Dexter’s case they help with Meals on Wheels and the congregant lunch programs. This makes up $22,000 of the senior center’s budget.
To do Meals on Wheels, the senior center is helped by the Catholic charity RSVP. This is an all-volunteer network of couriers, who deliver meals to home-bound seniors. Each volunteer does five routes per day. The drivers are compensated with a free meal.
“Nutrition is an important piece for seniors, obviously, especially if they’re home bound,” Smith said.
When a senior citizen becomes isolated, their health can go downhill. For $3, a senior can come to the Dexter Senior Center, on Dexter-Ann Arbor Road, and have lunch with other seniors.
“We find once we can get them in here for an exercise class and a lunch, we see them perk up. They’re having fun. They’re running into faces and names they knew from school days and it really helps bring them out,” Smith said.
The senior center provides a social environment on Dexter-Ann Arbor Road for area residents, who can join after they turn 55. They have exercise programs, yoga and afternoon card games.
Smith is also trying to get donations from businesses and other non-profits. They received $10,000 in funding from private companies last year. A new corporate sponsorship program will be launched by July 1.
“We’re talking to St. Joe’s Chelsea Hospital to get additional funding to help us with reaching out to some of our more isolated residents in the area,” Smith said. “We’re trying to get referrals from people who know of people that are out there. We know that social interaction is a big piece of helping with dementia, fitness, nutrition – all of it.”
Small individual donations are usually around $20 or $30 each. The yearly membership fee for the Dexter Senior Center is $20.
“We’ve had some struggles there. I’m hoping to work with United Way again at Washtenaw County,” Smith said. “Because we’re not receiving anything, but other senior centers are.”
When asked why, Smith said “I do not know that. I’ve only been here for six months and I’m trying to figure that out.”
With a new CPA, Smith is still going through the records to see what happened in the past.
Another problem, Smith said, is that Dexter was founded in a rural environment and that generation of farmers has stayed. Because the majority of senior residents around Dexter live in rural areas, mobility is a problem. In addition to getting them their meals and prescriptions, they have to battle social isolation. While there is the Wave, a shuttle that provides a degree of mobility, there is still an increasing amount of home-bound seniors.
“Their grandchildren have left the area,” Smith said. “New families are coming in and are driving school millage’s. So while seniors are paying millage’s, we don’t have a millage to support seniors.”
Smith wants to propose a millage to support seniors in the near future. The senior center receives program support from the county, but not operational funding. To expand the facility and programs, Smith has proposed creating a millage; although she said she couldn’t say what the millage amount would be. It would depend on whether the center could expand to “facilities through the schools that we would be able to move to, or services that we could utilize from the community schools, that’s all going to affect what a millage would be.”
The city already rents space at the senior center for city council meetings, commission meetings and Dexter Community Schools Chris Timmis superintendent has his offices in the building. There are actually two halves to the building. The Copeland half is owned by DCS. The Senior Center rents the other half at a very low rate. The senior center does not get revenue from the school district.