State Leadership Propels Age-Friendly Efforts

State Leadership Propels Age-Friendly Efforts

Posted on December 29, 2017 by Kathy Black

The Northeast in the fall- what’s not to love! The 2017 Grantmakers in Aging (GIA) Conference in Boston was especially significant. The GIA, a national catalyst for philanthropy in aging, is celebrating its 35th anniversary. This year held a diverse array of topics and was the most attended conference to date. There were several sessions relevant to Age-Friendly Sarasota, including rural transportation, the healthy built environment, and age-friendly health care systems, but sessions focused on leadership in aging in the Northeast were the most impressive! Consider the following:

Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire are the nation’s oldest states, and a collaborative has been created to promote learning, sharing, and collaboration for this quickly aging region. The “Learning Collaborative on Aging” aims to build effective partnerships with providers to drive policy change and community development across the three states.

Maine is the nation’s oldest state and is currently home to 85 age-friendly communities! Though many of the communities are small – in some cases just a few hundred residents – the state is forging ahead with volunteer-led innovations in how neighbors can better assist neighbors. According to Ruta Kadonoff, the “friendly” in age-friendly work must be promoted! This is particularly important for Maine which is also the nation’s most rural state and hosts the largest concentration of Baby Boomers in the United States. In addition, half of Maine’s workers are eligible for retirement in the next decade! Former Speaker of the House Mark Eves discussed the multiple efforts undertaken to best respond to the needs and aspirations of aging Maine residents. The collective efforts of policy-makers, town-based champions, and community volunteers have propelled Maine to be in the running for the nation’s first fully “age-friendly” state – but not so fast – other Northeastern states are vying for that status.

New York’s Governor Cuomo declared New York as the nation’s first age-friendly state more than a year ago. Like Maine – and the rest of the nation – and the world – New York is rapidly aging and using demographic projections, has recognized what’s at stake. The state has embarked on processes to adopt a “health and aging lens” in all policies, programs, and services. According to Greg Olsen, acting director of the State Office for Aging, the state is “all in” and has decided to “invest” in the civic, economic, and intellectual capacity of its aging residents. State efforts are intertwined with economic development, and $200 million has been set aside for the state’s nearly 5,000 municipalities to make their communities more livable. New York has also aligned their efforts with a preventive health focus – which acknowledges that healthy aging occurs across the life course. The preventive focus also aims to reduce disparities in health across the lifespan as well.

Sports rivalries aside, Massachusetts is also aiming to lead the nation. In 2017, a Governor’s Council was established to address aging throughout the state. More than New York, Massachusetts currently boasts over 40 age-friendly communities, with more on the horizon. The state is also home to the Villages Movement which began with Beacon Hill in the 1980s. The model provides a neighborhood-based network of support for residents that meet both their needs (i.e., transportation to doctor appointments) and their desires (i.e., pizza parties for mingling with others). The Council is charged with advancing the principles of age-friendlies across the state and is eager to adopt programs, policies, and services to best meet the needs of their residents. By 2030, nearly one in four Massachusetts residents are expected to be age 65 and older.

Bravo to the state-led efforts of the beautiful Northeastern region of our nation. Stay tuned for further updates about our own Age-Friendly Florida efforts ahead!

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