Many years ago, during the auto-industry boom of the 1950’s, factory workers in Detroit had money to spend. For some workers, that money went into vacation homes or cabins in northern Michigan. People wanted a place by a lake to relax on the weekend with their family.
Now, almost 70 years later, those young, working-class families have grown up and the parents have grown old. But still desiring a place to relax, these retirees moved to the cabins they used to call a vacation spot and have made them their home. One of these towns is Harrison, in the heart of Michigan.
Senior Services Director Lori Ware explains the aging population in this video.
Harrison is a small town in northern Michigan with the slogan, “20 lakes in 20 minutes.” It started as a logging town in the late 1800s, turned into a vacation town in the mid-20th century and can easily be labeled as a retirement community in 2017.
“Right now, we are about 28 percent 65 and over,” Director of Senior Services Lori Ware said. “we started in 2008 as a commission on aging and have only seen the demand for our services grow since then.”
Clare County Senior Services provides needed assistance to its aging constituency including, hot delivered meals, a senior center open every day, and respite care which includes bathing, cleaning, grocery shopping, and anything else that a senior may have lost the ability to do on their own.
Respite care is the primary purpose of Clare County Senior Services and the demand for it has grown over 400 percent since it started in 2008. A lack of government funding has forced Ware and her staff to look for other options. State funding for respite care has been cut in recent years and back filled with education through classes like Matter of Balance and Personal Action Towards Health.
While these classes are helpful, they lack participation in rural areas because it can take a senior up to a half hour to get to the location just for the one hour class. Harrison’s rural setting has made for a lose-lose outcome in the funding situation: Money poured into classes isn’t being utilized and the money siphoned from respite care is sorely missed.
(A word cloud from the grant proposal written to several foundations for funding for the adult day care)
“The government says that seniors only need 1 hour for respite care but it’s 45 minutes to the nearest Wal-Mart here,” Ware said. “When one of our workers goes into a home to relieve a caregiver, it takes them up to an hour just to get where they are going and by the time they get back so our worker can leave, it has been four or five hours. We can’t just do one hour because we’re rural.”
The solution was to bring the seniors to one location rather than going to them. Clare County Senior Services started the planning for an adult day care in July of 2014. The day care would be named Good Company.
Good Company will be in the current Senior Center across from the court house in Harrison and will operate from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on week days. Good Company will provide nutritious meals and activities to seniors who come.
Construction labor has been provided by Clare-Gladwin RESD students in the construction trades program at no cost to the county. The RESD students are in high school and the work is a way for them to get experience before entering the trade after graduation. Funding for materials have been provided by grants from the Clare Community Foundation, the Alden and Vada Dow Foundation, the Grace Dow Foundation, and the Gerstaker Foundation.
Good Company is expected to be open on October 1st, 2017.