Carroll County's oldest residents are also its poorest, said an extensive study released this year.

The Bethesda-based consulting firm Ecosometrics took a survey of people 60 and older across Carroll County.

The study was commissioned and paid for by the Department of Aging to help assess seniors' needs.

"It shows we're serving who we're supposed to serve," said Jolene Sullivan, director of the department.

Her department gets federal, state and county grants to serve all seniors, but especially those with low incomes.

The study shows the county's median income at $44,650 for all ages, but only $13,940 for people older than 60.

The median income drops even lower when younger seniors, some of whom are still employed, are excluded, the study shows.

Seniors 69 and older have a median income of $11,400.

But 64 percent of the seniors own their homes and have paid off the mortgages, and 83 percent live in their own homes with no assistance in paying housing costs, the study shows.

"The vast majority of old folks in the county are living independently and living well," said Jon E. Burkhardt of Ecosometrics.

The study also found most seniors get around in cars, and 85 percent live in households with an automobile.

Although transportation was a problem for a relatively small group of seniors, it had the strongest effect on their satisfaction with life, Burkhardt said.

Transportation problems for seniors became acute this year when the Carroll County Department of Aging had to cut back on buses and vans to senior centers, and increase fares to $1 to $3 a trip in October.

The fare increase was needed to avoid a deficit, Sullivan said, as transportation costs went up but seniors' donations did not.

The increased income from the fares, if it continues, could pay to restore the transportation cut earlier this year, she said.

Another budget-cutting move by the department was the closing of the Union Bridge Senior Center and a satellite center in Westminster.

The centers' memberships had dwindled to about eight for each, and 20 members would have been needed to justify the expense of running them, Sullivan said.

Hampstead and Manchester seniors, however, flocked to the new North Carroll Senior Center which opened in February in Greenmount.

The center previously was in rented space at a church.

Seniors in Taneytown are all but ready to open their new center in a renovated warehouse in a few months.

They still meet at the Thunderhead Lanes Bowling Alley.

A Mount Airy center is in design stages, and Sullivan has hired a consultant who specializes in designing senior centers to advise architect Mel Harbaugh on planning a replacement for the Westminster Senior Center.

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