GRAND RAPIDS — Within the last two to three years, Keith Hopkins has been receiving more calls from organizations seeking his fundraising expertise with projects to address the growing and varied needs of senior citizens.
Hopkins, president of Ada-based Hopkins Fundraising Consulting LLC, said the trend is unlikely to abate anytime soon. The reason: Nationwide, about 10,000 of an estimated 77 million Baby Boomers are reaching age 65 every day, and the movement is expected to continue through this decade.
That’s why organizations are calling Hopkins with requests for fundraising campaigns “saying they need to build more memory care units and will need more space for a wave of Baby Boomers who are going to have Alzheimer’s. Or if they run a hospice organization, they will need more beds because they will be hitting a point where there will be a need for more hospice care.
“For low-income seniors, there will be a huge need for Meals on Wheels and benevolent care centers for assisted living,” he said.
In 2017, the nonprofit Resthaven Care Center in Holland announced the public phase of a $5 million fundraising campaign to provide more living space and increase benevolent care assistance. Hopkins said Resthaven currently provides assisted living options.
“They basically will take anybody regardless of their ability to pay,” he said. “A portion of that campaign was around benevolent care. More seniors have outlived their resources and you can’t just turn them out onto the street. A consistent part of Resthaven’s mission is to care for folks who have outlived their retirement resources.”
In addition to Resthaven, Hopkins also cited the opening of Serenity Village of Barry County in Hastings, a nonprofit that offers assisted living, memory care, hospice care and respite or short-term care, as well as a new $11 million planned community senior center in Portage that will replace the current Portage Senior Center.
Of the more than 100 agencies that contract with the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan Inc., the majority are doing fundraisers, said Executive Director Jackie O’Connor.
“When (the agencies) can’t get enough money from the government, they do have to do some fundraising,” O’Connor said. “Oftentimes, government funds come with stipulations. We in West Michigan have been lucky to get an elder refugee grant. We have a lot of refugees and they bring their elderly mom and dad with them.
“For a while, there used to be some people who thought that kids and seniors were fighting over the same money, and that’s not true. You have to look at the state’s population. In Michigan, the kids population is decreasing and the older adult population is increasing. If there’s any new money, it should be going to take care of the needs of older adults.”
More demand for services
Meals, in-home services and transportation are among the biggest needs for seniors, according to O’Connor.
The Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan administers federal and state dollars and funds through the Kent County Senior Millage and subcontracts with local agencies to provide services.
“For state and federal dollars to increase, it requires us to advocate for those dollars,” O’Connor said. “The 2020 federal budget that just passed has small increases in some of the programs funded through the Older Americans Act.
“We don’t have adequate funding to meet the needs. We currently have a six-month waiting list for people who are asking for services that are brought into their home. People want to stay in their homes as long as possible, and if that’s the option versus a skilled nursing facility or a rehab center, this means that in-home services is what’s growing.”
Oftentimes, people delay making the call for services, which is how they end up on a waiting list, O’Connor said, noting that issues can arise when seniors also have unexpected health concerns while they’re on the list. On the flipside, she cited a number of programs focused on keeping people healthy, active and engaged in their communities.
According to Hopkins, that’s driving organizations and communities to consider adding new options and facilities.
“The City of Portage is looking at its population and saying, ‘We’re aging, but we don’t have a place for seniors to go for interaction where they can be engaged with the community and get services like vaccines,’” Hopkins said. “Every community in this country is being faced with challenges around the needs of seniors.”
Hopkins said senior centers are being updated to accommodate the needs of Baby Boomers who are much more physically active and engaged in their communities than previous generations.
O’Connor echoed those sentiments.
“I’ve been in the aging network for a long time and what I’m seeing is that we have people who are living longer so the needs of 60 year olds is not as intense as they were 20 or 30 years ago,” O’Connor said. “Back then, there were not a lot of options for older adults. Now, senior groups are involved in gyms down the road and the YMCA programs that are specific to older adults because they’re more active.”
As of now in Michigan, residents who are age 50 or older make up 37 percent of the state’s population, according to U.S. Census data. However, Michigan’s population is aging faster than the national trend. By 2025, Michigan residents age 65 and older will outnumber people younger than 18 years of age. This change is nearly 10 years ahead of the national projection.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer cited those trends when she announced in October that the state joined the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and the World Health Organization Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities.
“Active aging is a life-long process and making communities more age-friendly is a commonsense policy approach for responding to demographic aging,” Whitmer said in her application letter.
In addition to Michigan, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts and New York also joined the network; Grand Rapids was among eight Michigan communities that joined the Age-Friendly Network.
A new golden age?
While the aging population will continue to strain nonprofits focused on senior care, the impending generational transfer of wealth that’s about to occur could also pose an opportunity for those organizations, according to Hopkins.
“In my mind, we’ve got a big bubble in the population that’s aging and they’re moving closer and closer to retirement, but the other side of that coin is that these folks are usually at an age where they’re thinking more and more about charitable giving,” he said.
Hopkins thinks the nation is poised to enter what he refers to as the second “Golden Age of Giving.” The first, he said, was during the 19th century when the Carnegies and Rockefellers of the world were giving away money. Hopkins said the second Golden Age involves billionaires like Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates who are asking all of their billionaire friends to give away half of their money during their lifetime under the giving pledge that they started.
“Two hundred and forty billionaires have already signed that pledge,” Hopkins said. “Baby Boomers control about 70 percent of disposable income in the United States. A lot of them have homes that are paid off and they’re in a much stronger position than Millennials or Gen Xers. Many of them are inheriting a lot of money because their Boomer parents are dying. Depending on the survey you look at, this transfer of wealth is $6 trillion on the low end.”
As the population continues to age, Hopkins thinks more money will be directed toward the needs of seniors, but the donors will be people age 50 or older because younger people don’t have excess money to give.
“The majority of bigger donors are typically in their mid 50s or older and they are the people who are starting to think about how they will care for their parents,” Hopkins said. “When talking to donors who are older about giving to fundraising campaigns to support the needs of seniors, I tell them that those are the services their parents are using now and that they’re going to need later.”
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