Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Essex County has the oldest population in Vermont. Here's how it supports them

Hands of caregivers and the elderly
kazuma seki/Getty Images
Vermont has more people over 65 than under 18. More people die in Vermont each year than are born.

It’s no secret—Vermont’s population trends gray. The median age in the state is 43.2, making it the third oldest in the country, behind two other New England states, Maine and New Hampshire. Vermont’s population is also getting older. By 2030, one in three Vermonters will be north of 60. For almost the past decade, more people die in the state each year than are born.

Essex County is the oldest of the state’s 14 counties, with one in three Essex County residents over 60. It’s also very rural and sparsely populated compared with the rest of the state. When we talk about those over-60 residents, it's just north of 2,000 people.

A small population presents opportunities and challenges of its own.

Meg Burmeister, executive director of the Northeast Kingdom Council on Aging, said she sees those challenges playing out all the time.

"We have a senior helpline that really is the first point of entry for people," she said, adding that it's a statewide number all the area agencies on aging use. "We utilize volunteers and help make connections with our transportation system, the RCT program [Rural Community Transportation] in our three county area." This helps people with groceries and other basic needs.

Lunenberg, Gilman, and Concord Senior Citizens, a non-profit organization, oversees the Gilman Senior Center, which provides meals and activities for connection for older residents of the area. Sharon Eaton, the organization's president, said that it can be difficult to establish a strong volunteer base because many volunteers are seniors themselves.

"A lot of us do things for our seniors in our communities just because we know them and we know they need help," Eaton said.

Burmeister said that one way they support people experiencing loneliness and isolation is their case management system and options counseling.

"We have workers that are able to go out to people's homes, and help them explore what kinds of choices and what kinds of options they have before them. That really gets down to the very individual challenges that people face and looks at their unique situations to help them understand what would be helpful. We try very hard not to take a one size fits all approach with our work with people in the community," she said.

Burmeister also stressed the need for additional funding to be able to support the meals programs for the entire state.

"The funding has not increased to keep up with things like the food costs that have occurred and the challenges that people face in terms of supply and demand," she said.

This episode of Vermont Edition also included a conversation with Colin Flanders, a reporter with Seven Days whose recent cover story takes a comprehensive look at Vermont's demographic shift.

Broadcast at noon Monday, March 11, 2024; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

Mikaela Lefrak is the host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.
Andrea Laurion joined Vermont Public as a news producer for Vermont Edition in December 2022. She is a native of Pittsburgh, Pa., and a graduate of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine. Before getting into audio, Andrea worked as an obituary writer, a lunch lady, a wedding photographer assistant, a children’s birthday party hostess, a haunted house actor, and an admin assistant many times over.