Johnson County is ground zero for an aging population explosion. The median age for the county in 2016 (45) is substantially higher than the median age for both the state (37) and the country (38). As the population ages, the need for senior services is likely to grow.
While most Johnson County residents are rightly suspicious of new or expanded taxes, a senior citizens service district makes good sense.
It simply costs less to keep people at home, active and healthy. Once they enter the medical care system, costs skyrocket, and the taxpayers foot the bill.
Equally important: Most seniors would rather stay in their homes for as long as possible. And that personal goal makes sense for our community, too. Numerous, longterm studies by a variety of organizations, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development, AARP, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, have demonstrated that aging in place places lower demands on healthcare services, improves seniors’ quality of life and increases life expectancy.
The proposal to create a special senior citizen service district will appear on the August primary election ballot and must be passed by a simple majority. The proposed special district would provide a steady funding stream for senior services in Johnson County, helping more seniors stay independent and in their own homes longer.
The Johnson County Senior Citizen Service District would be funded as other special districts in the county are, through a special district property tax. And like other special districts, the senior citizen district would focus on providing a specialized suite of services as approved by the voters. In this case, the funds would create a stable funding source for in-home services, respite care, the meals program at the senior center, home-delivered meals and social opportunities. Funds will also be used to expand the offerings to seniors in Kaycee.
In particular, the meals program is critical to allowing more seniors to remain independent and in their homes. In 2019, the center served more than 13,000 meals in their cafeteria and another 11,000 were delivered to seniors in their homes. The meals program is funded through federal Title III funds, a funding source that has not kept pace with the aging population. According to a report from the Congressional Research Service, Title III funding approximately kept pace with the growing older population until 2011, but it has since been dramatically outpaced. While Title III funding in FY 2019 was 22% above what it was in FY 2001, the population of those ages 60 and older has grown by 63% since 2001.
But at what cost? Here’s the good news. It’s really quite affordable.
For homeowners who own $250,000 homes, the annual price of adding the senior services district is $23.75 – less than the price of a cup of coffee each month. That sounds like a bargain for the benefits that the district will provide to our community and our community’s seniors.