Challenges and Opportunities Ahead for an Aging Maine

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the constant coverage of Maine’s aging population. Lately, it seems impossible to hear a politician deliver a public address or simply listen to the news without a reminder that Maine is the oldest state in the nation and that by 2030, one in four Mainers will be over the age of 65. Rather than be terrified by these statistics, Mainers should consider the state’s changing demographics as an opportunity rather than an anchor, and consider ways to use the fact that Mainers are living longer to advance the causes of aging with dignity and increased economic opportunity.

Working with the national Caring Across Generations campaign, MPA is actively pursuing federal and state policy agendas that help seniors age at home as long as they are able, offer support and relief for members of the so-called “sandwich generation” caring for both parents and children, and create jobs for a younger workforce by prioritizing job training and livable wages for care workers. MPA members have lobbied Maine’s congressional delegation to support a federal bill intended to create a fund for state-based long term care initiatives, encouraging states to apply for federal resources to better understand the state of their long term care infrastructure and to implement proposed changes those studies uncover. At the state level, much of the work that would be funded by an innovation fund is already underway.

Convened under the auspices of the Speaker of the House, the Maine Council on Aging’s working groups meet with a number of stakeholders to offer solutions on diverse issues from elder fraud to transportation reimbursement for home care workers. In 2015, expect Maine’s legislature to take up a number of bills related to long-term care.

An election year offers a crucial opportunity to begin a conversation with candidates and elected officials about the state of long-term care in Maine. The senior vote is often taken for granted and many of the issues that have the most bearing on the lives of people who are living longer than previous generations rarely make their way into the electoral discourse. This year, at town hall events across the state, MPA will be inviting conversation from community members about the challenges of aging at home, the difficulties faced by those who provide care, and the concrete changes in state policy (including an increased minimum wage, an expansion of MaineCare, and a rebalancing of the state’s allotment of long-term care resources so that they adequately fund in-home care) that could make a definitive difference in an aging state.

MPA members have powerful stories about taking care of parents in their final years, struggling to find the resources to afford the facility-based care required in the face of illness, struggling to make ends meet as a care worker, and many others. If you have a care story you’d like to share, please contact an MPA organizer (or just respond to the last email from MPA you received) to be included in the storybook being assembled this summer.