The elderly population in Marblehead is on the rise and as a result, the town's Council on Aging is responding to more local reports of compulsive hoarding, at-home falls and scamming attempts than ever before.
So, to ensure that the council can keep up with the ever-increasing demand for services, Finance Committee members approved an $18,700 budget increase Thursday night aimed at making the council's outreach worker post a 30 hour-a-week position.
COA Director Patricia Roberts told committee members that her organization's outreach worker, Teri Allen McDonough, is responding to far more cases than in years past and noted that the issues facing local elders are becoming much more complicated.
"We had a man who had been hospitalized and in rehab for three years and was discharged to a rooming house in Marblehead with just a room and no money," Robert said. "We found that they had forgotten to change over his Social Security checks, so he had nothing coming in."
Roberts said the COA's outreach worker opened the man a bank account, got him signed up for health insurance and food stamps, took him to the food pantry, familiarized him with public transportation and provided him with a donated microwave and dorm-size refrigerator.
"That's just one case and you can see how many different aspects there were to it," Roberts said, adding that the man has since become a COA volunteer.
In 2011, Roberts said the organization's outreach worker responded to 10 new hoarding cases and 25 local seniors were placed in adult protective custody.
In 2000 people age 60 and over made up 20 percent of the local population; In 2010, it was 24.6 percent; and it is projected to be 31 percent in 2020.
"People live longer and they stay in their homes longer," Roberts said. "A lot of elderly people are staying where their families are and they aren't picking up and moving to Florida as much as they used to."
The COA first added an outreach worker in 2000 and since then the position was funded entirely by grants. Prior to the committee's vote, Selectman Judy Jacobi pointed out that Marblehead is one of the only North Shore communities without a full-time outreach worker.