Graying of Howard County

Elderly services: Executive's transition team proposes good ideas for helping a growing senior sector.

February 24, 1999

THE TRANSITION team that Howard County Executive James N. Robey appointed in December has returned with a lot of good ideas. With recognition about what the county can afford, all of its recommendations merit consideration.

In particular, its suggestion that the county create a Department of Aging must be studied.

Demographers believe the graying of Howard County will continue unabated. By 2015, the number of county residents older than 60 will double to 57,000. Some experts predict that this latter-20th century bastion of upwardly mobile young families will become one-quarter senior citizens by 2025. That is a force whose needs cannot be ignored.

The size of the elderly population could overwhelm the Office of Aging, one of five agencies within the county Department of Citizen Services. Howard already plans to expand its network of 10 senior centers. A separate director may be needed to coordinate various senior programs throughout the county.

On the other hand, as the percentage of senior citizens increases, the county may find the needs of that population have become so general as to be less well-served as a separate entity.

The bottom line is that any step the county can afford to make life better for its citizens should be taken, including creation of a department. It may take awhile for Mr. Robey to decide what he wants to do about senior services, but other transition-team ideas don't appear to be as long-term.

Given a predicted shortfall in revenue, it's time to consider a fire tax increase. The 911 dispatchers toil in an old bomb shelter; they need a new center. A central booking facility would save time for police taking prisoners from the Southern District station in Fulton to courthouses in Ellicott City and to the detention center in Jessup.

Pub Date: 2/24/99

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