As Glendale's population ages, demand for senior services grows

Glendale is graying.

From 2000 to 2010, the city’s 60-and-older population grew by 16%, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The fastest growing age group was 60 to 64, which jumped 36%.

At the same time, the youth population dropped 17%, with the 5-to-9 age group sliding 27%.

“Glendale represents trends affecting many communities that do not have immigrant and Hispanic populations with higher fertility rates to offset the aging baby boomer cohort,” said Fernando Torres-Gil, director of UCLA’s Center for Policy Research on Aging.

Glendale’s Latino population dropped 13% to 33,414, or 17% of the population, over the same 10-year period, according to the census.

Seniors now make up 21% of Glendale’s population. Although California doesn’t officially consider someone a senior until they’re 62, the city provides senior services for those 60 and older.

The growing senior population also has a lot to do with the fact that people are living longer due to improved healthcare, experts said.

All of those seniors have driven demand for public services, particularly the city’s daily meal programs, including one that delivers to home-bound seniors.

“We’re over serving by 25%,” Maggie Kavarian, a community services supervisor with the city. “We’re scared because that’s a big increase. We know it’s not going to get any smaller. It’s something we’re thinking about, but we don’t know what to do with.”

Glendale gets roughly $224,000 from Los Angeles County per year to cover about 53,000 in-house and home-bound meals. With two months still left in the current fiscal year, the program has nearly wiped out its funding, Kavarian said.

The center has changed its menus to look more like those found at restaurants rather than the monthly calendars of years past to cater to younger guests, Kavarian said. More diners in their 60s, in line with the baby boomer generation, are taking advantage of the free program.

Clients are asked to give a $2.50 donation, but they rarely do.

It’s all a sign of what’s to come for aging communities and the cities that serve them, experts say.

Cities with an influx of baby boomers “will be pressured to develop age-friendly policies, especially around housing, transportation and long-term care,” Torres-Gil said. “Cities will also want to…incentivize seniors to age in place and not flee to other locales.”

The high demand for senior services has also attracted the elder care industry to Glendale. There are 11 board and care centers, according to city records, but that doesn’t include retirement communities.

Scholl Canyon Estates, an independent-living community, settled in Glendale about three years ago because of the demand, said manager Ellen Grant.

The 95-unit complex is filling up faster than expected and is now at 80% occupied.

“We came here because there was a need, obviously, that we thought we could fill,” she said.

Later this month, the new $7-million Adult Recreation Center is hosting a birthday celebration that will include lunch, cake and speeches by local officials.

The facility is packed daily with seniors playing board games, exercising and dining.

“It’s very exciting,” said Julia Amezcua, 72, as she ate lunch earlier this week at the center at 201 E. Colorado St. “It’ll be beautiful. Everyone’s going to come.”

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