Lt. Governor tackles growing issue of aging in SC

ORANGEBURG, S.C. (WACH, AP) -- Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell is touring South Carolina's nursing homes and senior centers as part of his "Face of Aging" tour.

McConnell was in Orangeburg Tuesday holding a forum at the Orangeburg County Council on Aging.

Joy Barnes was one of dozens of senior citizens who attended that public hearing to share concerns about one of the fastest growing groups of South Carolina's population. According to the 2010 census, senior citizens,people 65 years or older, make up 13.7 percent of the state's population.

Barnes, 73, worries about the ratio of nurses to patients in retirement homes and fears the issue will only get worse as time goes on.

"The number of people that are coming in to the senior citizen population, more and more services and care are going to be needed," said Barnes.

The senior population is expected to double in South Carolina over the next twenty years, meaning more than one million seniors will be battling for programs from healthcare to veterans' services. Right now, the Lt. Governor says there isn't a plan to deal with that spike.

"We dont' have an endless supply of money. We've got to think smarter, we've to to network, we've got to bring public and private together and we've got to look at what works and what will break the spiraling costs," said McConnell. "Seniors are not looking for a handout, they're looking for a helping hand to remain independent. And they're concerned that helping hand is not going to be there."

That's something Joy Barnes knows has to be handled for her and others in her age bracket, and the generations to come.

"This situation, it has really been a silent need," said Barnes.

McConnell's office says he's making the tour to assess services for older residents across the state. He's also taking feedback from seniors, caregivers and community leaders.

McConnell has already made stops in north-central South Carolina. He is slated to visit Bamberg on Wednesday and plans to visit other regions throughout the state in the coming months.