By 2020, senior citizens will outnumber younger generations.
According to the AARP, next year the number of people who are 65 and older is estimated at 55 million, and by 2030 it’s estimated at 70 million.
Frederick County will be hit by what has been called a “silver tsunami.” County residents who will be older than 60 will reach an estimated 60,171 by 2020, compared to 49,203 school-aged children, according to the Maryland Department of Planning’s 2016 report, the last year available.
As the founder and president of Supporting Older Adults through Resources, Leslie Schultz has seen first-hand how much those who are in the older age bracket are slipping through the cracks.
As a way to help finance the need of seniors in the county, SOAR annually hosts A Toast to the Holidays at The Delaplaine Visual Arts Center in downtown Frederick. This year’s event is Thursday and costs $50 per ticket to enter.
“Each year the event has grown as have the needs of seniors,” Schultz said. “We’ve been able to raise more money each year and this is one of the primary financial supports of our organization.”
A Toast to the Holidays features food, wine, beer and a signature sangria cocktail. But the main event is the live and silent auctions.
“We have local artists and local people who have created tabletop trees and wreaths and baskets and all kinds of unique one-of-a-kind auction items,” she said.
As for the live auction, Schultz promises nothing run-of-the-mill.
“We have a pretty fun auction planned,” she said. “Yeah, I know, it can sound kind of boring, but ours is going to have a bit of comedic flair.”
Founded in 2013, SOAR helped its first set of 100 seniors in 2015, Schultz said.
“Fast-forward to where we are currently and we’re close to 800 people,” she said.
Last year’s A Toast to the Holidays raised $52,000, Schultz said. And because SOAR has neither a full-time staff nor a brick-and-mortar building, she said that money goes back to helping seniors living in Frederick County.
“We don’t limit ourselves to anyone’s need. We do medications, we pay for in-home care, we pay for transportation. We pay for a lot of medical equipment that allows people to live independently in their own homes like wheelchairs and walkers and things like that,” Schultz said. “It goes to whatever requests that we have.”
Today, she said, SOAR has rehoused nine homeless seniors. One was a gentleman who was living in his truck. SOAR paid for a hotel room and his meals.
Then, Schultz said, when a subsidized apartment was available, they were able to help furnish it for him.
“Oftentimes, it’s just a leg up,” she said.
Previously, Schultz said, SOAR helped pay for a car for two brothers who needed transportation to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center for treatment.
“We helped them get a car and they are both now living great without any medical conditions and are doing very well,” she said.
In order to qualify for assistance from SOAR, Schultz said a person has to be 65 or older, live in Frederick County, and either make no more than $2,100 a month for an individual or $3,000 for a couple.
If a person meets the criteria, Schutz said the organization tries to meet any essential needs they can.
The future of SOAR
Schultz said she wants SOAR to grow to keep up with the local needs.
“In 2020, we’re looking to formalize and transition to pay staff because our organization is growing,” she said.
SOAR also partners with the food bank at St.-Joseph-on-the-Carrollton Catholic Church in Frederick to allow the organization to deliver groceries once a month to seniors. Schultz said 300 seniors a year receive food from the food bank.
For five years, Schultz makes sure seniors are remembered during the holidays by delivering meals in November and December. She said last year they delivered 225 meals.
At Thanksgiving, SOAR delivers a meal and a bag of groceries. In December, seniors receive a bag of gifts as well as a holiday meal.
“A lot of people don’t have family and they’re homebound,” she said. “And so it’s really a nice thing for us to just be able to acknowledge them during holiday time.”
Schultz said they started off with 25 meals, now they deliver 125 meals every holiday.
For Schultz, the bottom line is helping seniors get the resources to help with their quality of life.
“In other countries, seniors are revered, and they are treasured, and they live with family members and they do not necessarily just put on a shelf,” Schultz said. “Here in this country, unfortunately, seniors have become invisible. And if I can do anything with this organization — beyond just helping seniors — is to make people remember that there are people out there [who] have been very functioning people and did a lot in their lives, and here they are in need today. I just want to bring them to the forefront, beyond those things that we help with, I just want people to remember that they are people and they may not be seen every day because they don’t necessarily have a way to get out of their home, but they still exist in our community.”
Follow Crystal Schelle on Twitter: @crystalschelle.