CADILLAC — It shouldn't come as a surprise, but the Wexford County Council on Aging is looking at expanding.
Considering the country as a whole is getting older, the need for services for senior citizens also is growing and Wexford County COA Executive Director Kathy Kimmel can attest to that. Since she took over her duties as executive director, Kimmel said the COA has been expanding its services. It also has meant moving into a new office space.
In 2015, the COA purchased a building at 714 W. 13th St., which formerly served as the Knights of Columbus Hall. Before that, the organization was housed at a location on Cass Street for more than 25 years, and with the organizational changes that occurred including Kimmel becoming executive director, it made sense to see if there was a different location the agency could call home.
The COA purchased the 13th Street building for $135,000 with funds the organization had in reserves. The reserves were the result of savings from not having to pay the former executive director's salary as well as lower snow plowing costs. The agency moved into its new building in May 2017.
Despite the second anniversary of that move in just occurring, Kimmel said the COA is in the process of looking at expanding the office building's footprint. Right now, however, Kimmel said it is only a possibility and nothing is set in stone.
"We are looking at the possibility of expanding. The (COA) board has formed a building committee to look at options," she said.
Kimmel said a request for proposals regarding the services of an architect was posted and the COA only received one response. She also said it was only for the basic schematics. She said the need for the building expansion is for various reasons.
Last fall, Kimmel said an additional nurse was hired as was a community health advocate, who handles social work type duties for COA clients. With those two additions, Kimmel said they are now out of office space, which makes it difficult for other services that are provided by the COA. She also said when a full staff meeting is held it has to be done off-site as there is no formal meeting room.
"We use volunteers for Medicaid and Medicare assistance programs and we have to have offices for them because the stuff they are meeting about is confidential," she said.
Kimmel said the money that could be used for this potential building expansion is not from millage funding but rather a private donation. She also said it is not certain how big an addition it will be. She also said the earliest it would be started would be sometime in 2020.
"We feel like we have the Taj Mahal but we want it to continue to meet the needs of our clients. And if we need private office space we will need to put on an addition to do that," she said. "We are not sure how big it will be. We are not that far (in the process)."
Recently, the U.S. Census Bureau reported the median age within the United States increased to 38.2 years in 2018, up from 37.2 years in 2010. The pace of this aging, however, is different across race and ethnicity groups, according to recently released 2018 Population Estimates by demographic characteristics for the nation, states and counties by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Locally, the data showed aging increases across the board albeit at different levels.
By far, Lake County aged the most with its median age going from 50.3 in 2010 to 54 in 2018, which was an increase of 3.7 years in the median age. Next was Osceola County who also was above the national average in aging with a median age of 43.9 in 2018 compared to the median age of residents in 2010 of 41.8.
Wexford County, however, was right on track with the national average of residents being a year older since 2010 with its median age in 2018 41.9 while in 2010 it was 40.9. Finally, Missaukee County showed the least amount of age increase as its median age in 2018 was slightly over its 2010 level. The median age in Missaukee County in 2018 was 43.1 compared to 42.9 in 2010.
Wexford County also had the youngest median age residents when compared to Lake, Missaukee and Osceola counties, but all were several years above the median age of the nation (38.2).
For more information about the COA and the services it offers, call 775-0133 or log on to www.wexfordcoa.org.