- Speaker of the House Mark Eves is heading to Washington to brief Maine’s Congressional delegation on his plan to transform how seniors age in Maine.
As part of an ongoing effort to grow support for his plan to help seniors age in place in their homes and communities, Eves will hold individual meetings with Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree on Tuesday.
“Maine can be a national leader on aging if we can all come together to ensure seniors have a more secure retirement,” said Eves of North Berwick. “My goal is to bring leaders together on all levels to help transform how people age in our state. Our Congressional delegation has shown strong leadership on seniors issues and I look forward to hearing their ideas and feedback.”
Eves will be joined by leading experts on aging in Maine who have been part of the year-long effort to develop the policies, including Jess Maurer from the Maine Council on Aging, Jeff Hecker, provost at University of Maine at Orono, and Steve Pound from Cianbro, who heads up workforce development efforts for the company. They will be seeking ways for the state to maximize federal dollars and leverage federal programs to help seniors live independently longer.
“We have an opportunity to bring our state and federal efforts together to make Maine a national leader on aging issues,” said Jess Maurer, who co-chairs the Maine Council on Aging. “For months now we’ve brought municipal leaders, business and aging experts together to develop ideas and build support for our plan to help seniors age in place. Now, we can share those ideas and see how to best partner with the federal government to maximize our effort.”
—–That Maine is statistically the oldest state in the nation has long been known with estimates that one in four Mainers will be over the age of 65 by 2030, according to census projections. What has been less clear is how to address the increasing needs for those citizens as to maintain a safe quality of life, either in their homes or in their towns (especially challenging considering the rural nature of Maine), with access to the many services one requires in daily life.
According to a recent AARP poll of 2,000 Maine adults over 50, “nearly seven out of ten think it should be a top or high priority for Maine elected officials to support age-friendly communities by funding services, programs, or infrastructure changes that enable residents to age in place.”
Speaker of the House Mark Eves (D-N Berwick) initiated a series of “Round Table discussions” last year to bring together many concerned with these issues and come up with possible solutions. The summits brought together many state agencies, expert groups, guest speakers and allowed for public individual input as well. Among the concerns were how to facilitate Maine’s elderly to be able to live independently yet safely, “in place” yet being able to access all care, food, work, how to pay for these needs without creating a burden for the generations to follow, and so much more.
At a press conference this morning at Brunswick’s Creekside Village adult housing apartments, Speaker Eves unveiled an ambitious proposal called the “KeepME Home” initiative, geared towards helping Maine seniors be able to stay safely in the state as they age. According to Eves, there is strong bipartisan support for the proposal among Republican leadership.
Some key points:
- A $65 million general obligation bond to develop 1000 energy efficient apartments in 40 locations and in all 16 counties.
- Increase further Maine’s Property Tax Fairness Credit to the state’s seniors.
- Increase Medicaid reimbursement rates for direct care workers, providing in-home and personal care wervices to seniors.
Here are clips from the press conference:
Speaker Mark Eves Announces “KeepME Home” Initiative
- “Each of these policies is aimed at creating a more secure retirement for Maine seniors where they can live independently or age in place. Announcing the KeepME Home initiative is a first step towards raising awareness about the critical need to transform how people age in our state. Maine’s population is aging rapidly. The demographic reality is a challenge that we can change into an opportunity.”
Lee Picker of Sabattus speaks in support of “KeepME Home” plan
- “So many of us face the same struggles to remain independent and to age in place in our communities and homes. As property taxes or the price of oil rises, we have to choose between putting food on the table or paying for medicine. Many of us are also concerned about our family caregivers who might have to stop working or juggle schedules to help with care.”
Jessica Maurer, Executive Director of the Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging and co-chair of Maine Council of Aging
“Older Mainers want to remain in their homes and communities as they age, but are struggling to find the housing and services they need. The Maine Council on Aging promotes a vision for Maine where older adults are valued and thriving community members. The KeepME Home initiatives will go a long way to achieving this vision by helping older adults remain independent now and into the future.”
Maurer also spoke of her agency’s having sent out yesterday a letter to all candidates, regardless of party and currently seeking legislative office, outlining the proposal’s details.
Conclusion of “KeepMe Home” press conference; Q&A
The proposals have strong support from a coalition of advocates including, the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, the Direct Care Alliance, Associated General Contractors of Maine and the Maine Council on Aging, some of whom lent their voices in public support for the initiative and issued statements.
Rick Whiting, Chair of the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition and Executive Director of the Auburn Housing Authority:
- “The Maine Affordable Housing Coalition sees the ‘KeepME Home’ initiative as a smart and critically important tool in addressing the fundamental mismatch between our state’s housing supply and the needs of our aging population. That it would do so while also creating much-needed jobs in the construction, architectural and engineering sectors makes it a key part of our state’s economic recovery. We know from experience that seniors can age in place successfully when they have quality, affordable and energy-efficient homes in communities that provide them with access to needed services. Unfortunately, we also know that the inadequacy of our housing stock is currently causing thousands of these vulnerable Mainers to grow more isolated while languishing for years and years on waiting lists.”
“The Direct Care Alliance strongly supports the ‘KeepME Home’ initiative to boost support for in-home care for seniors in Maine,” said Hanson. “Maine’s population is aging rapidly. If older adults in Maine are going to live independently in their homes and communities, the state must increase its resources to support workers who provide critical in-home care and personal support services for our aging population. From delivering meals, to taking vital signs, assessing health status, guiding vulnerable people through activities of daily living and maintaining households, to helping those living with dementia remain safe, these services are critical for older adults who live independently and their families. Providing these services to seniors in their homes prevents unnecessary emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and institutionalization in nursing facilities. It is a wise investment for the state, for our economy, and for all our seniors and families.”
Moreau added, “For nearly a decade, state resources for this critical care have been anemic. Direct care workers are on the frontlines of care for our seniors, but they continue to earn low wages. While the price of food, gas, and medicine has gone up, the pay for in-home care workers has been frozen and cut. As a result, home care agencies are struggling to recruit and maintain a qualified workforce that can meet the current demand for in-home care. Agencies currently have wait lists for services and the the demand for services is expected to grow. If the state does not shift resources, the direct care worker industry will be in jeopardy. By boosting reimbursement rates, the state will stave off a crisis for seniors, while also putting more money in the pockets of workers. It is a win for our seniors, our workers, and our economy.”
- “By creating new units we are accomplishing a number of goals that drive our economy. First, it will provide improved living conditions for residents that are closer to services like doctors and pharmacies. The plan is designed to create new housing units in each region, and in towns that have existing transportation systems in place, healthcare services, and nearby access to grocery stores. This new housing will not require tenants to leave rural counties, and instead will be located in places where they can easily get to and from services as they age. This will also help reduce the financial strain caused by having emergency service providers traveling to remote homes to provide medical care. The goal is to offer a living experience that is similar to what someone is accustomed to while ensuring that person can easily get to the grocery store or see a doctor,” said AGC Maine’s Matthew Marks.
“Anytime Mainers invest in construction the return to the Maine economy is almost immediate. This proposal will result in $80-$100 million in construction investment across the state. That has an impact of increasing Maine’s Gross Domestic Product by at least $272 million, adding an additional $88 million in personal earnings, and creating or sustaining 2,280 jobs. The jobs are diverse too – an estimated one third (776) are construction jobs, one sixth (368) are jobs for the people who provide supplies and services to the industry, and one half (1,144) are jobs created when construction and supplier workers spend their earnings across all sectors of the economy.
Increased local investment, local jobs, and local taxes for the State of Maine are all positive results that would be created by this initiative. For decades, we have watched the construction industry bolster our economy during the toughest times, and throughout our state’s history we have seen that investing in infrastructure helps our economy grow stronger. Creating opportunity for more high-skilled jobs will only help us attract younger workers and better trained craftsman and keep Mainers from having to go out of state to find jobs,” said Marks.
Eves intends to introduce formal proposals when the Legislature reconvenes at the end of the year.
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