The Saratoga Springs Senior Center is at full capacity, officials there say, with Saratoga County having among the fastest-growing senior citizen populations in the state.
In response, the center has added Saturday hours to spread out demand and seek a new audience, and officials there are in the process of planning for construction of a new facility that could meet the anticipated demand for services as Baby Boomers age.
"What we've been experiencing now is we're really out of space," said Lois Celeste, executive director of the non-profit center located on Williams Street, on the southwestern edge of downtown.
Earlier this year, to spread out programming and also to reach senior citizens who may still be working, the center started opening its doors on Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to noon. The initiative is funded for the rest of the year through part of an $8,000 grant from the Alfred Z. Solomon Charitable Trust.
About 2,000 seniors come to the center annually, with the number growing. The center, while located in the city, is open to all senior citizens living in Saratoga County.
“We’ve heard from many of our seniors that they can’t come to the center during our normal hours because of work conflicts or they’re caring for others during the day," Celeste said. "We know how important our center is for so many seniors so we sought grant funding to help support costs and explore new programming."
Celeste said there's a potential site for a new center, but it can't yet be discussed publicly.
"We’re out of space and we need to build a larger facility to serve our existing population and for the influx of Boomers to come in the very near future," Celeste said. "We've seen the need coming. We've been working on this for a couple of years."
A 2019 report by the Center for an Urban Future found that between 2007 and 2017, Saratoga County had the fastest-growing older adult population in the state -- the number of people 65 or older grew from 26,055 to 40,355. Older adults now account for 18 percent of the county's population, up from 12 percent in 2007.
Due to more Baby Boomers -- those born between 1946 and 1964 -- reaching retirement age, Celeste said 20 percent of the county population may be seniors in the 2020 census count. Also, many seniors still work, she said -- a reason for the added Saturday hours, when people can gather for games, activities, and to socialize.
"We know that if seniors stay connected and continue to socialize that they are healthier," she said.
There are 18 municipalities in the county that have a place where senior citizens can meet at times, but less than half of them, including Saratoga Springs, have full-time facilities devoted to seniors.