Recommendations from the Strategic Action Planning Group on Aging
DENVER, CO. By 2030, Colorado can expect that more than 1 million individuals will be over age 65 compared to today when only about 500,000 individuals are over age 65. Many things contribute to this change but the main reason is the healthy lifestyles of Baby Boomers and those in the Greatest Generation.
The Strategic Action Planning Group on Aging, a statewide group appointed by Governor Hickenlooper in a historic bill approved by the Colorado legislature in 2015, presented their findings in late November.
According to an AARP study, “Older Coloradans play critical roles in the state’s economy — with those aged 50 and older accounting for 45 percent of the state’s GDP ($131 billion) and supporting 48 percent of its jobs (1.6 million) in 2013”. At the same time, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2030 nationally, “over one out of every five dollars spent in the Medicaid program will be spent on the aged populations and total Medicaid expenditures for the aging cohorts are projected to grow from just over $1.04 billion in FY 2015-16 to just over $2.325 billion in FY 2029-30, an increase of more than 100 percent in 15 years.”
It is safe to assume that Coloradoans are no different than others in the United States. 87% of elders want to continue to live in their own home and age in place. For those individuals who need help, this creates a need for more services and more help from families.
Based on national and state research, the study concluded that “family members and others acting as informal caregivers in Colorado endured a cost of $3.7 billion in 2015, including lost wages, forgone benefits, and other expenses. That figure is projected to grow to $6.6 billion by 2030”.
The Planning Group made some significant recommendations to Colorado lawmakers as they prepare for the anticipated changes over the next 15 years. Policy makers are asked to create an “elder” czar in state government whose sole job is to work on policy, services, and resources to meet the needs of the 65+ population. Colorado also needs to calculate how much money is spent on aging programs within state government, as well as in the private sector.
To meet the desires of the population, the study concluded that local communities will need to become more “livable” and meet the housing, transportation, social and health care needs of the population. Local governments will be critical in this path to helping elders live at home.
The need for a skilled workforce to meet the needs of those who need more care and services either in the community or in a care setting must be supported. The labor force must be trained with career paths to ensure the advanced care needs can be met in the most cost-effective way. Another finding is the need to support families and friends who care for loved ones.
Coloradoans are no different than other elders, most of them have little if any savings. Retirement savings are more critical now than ever. Few people have much in the way of savings, prompting the study to call for major changes in state policies to address retirement savings.
The study also concluded that many elders who do have financial wealth in their later years are subject to financial exploitation and predatory lending practices. The planning group concluded that state and federal agencies need to improve the safety and well-being of older adults.
To schedule a speaker or to review the full report and findings visit https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/agingstrategy. For more information, call 303-333-3482.
Eileen Doherty, MS is the Executive Director of the Colorado Gerontological Society. Her areas of expertise include management and administration of nonprofit organizations, education and training on issues related to older adults, advocacy and policy development on senior issues, and clinical practice in working with seniors and families to manage their lives in the later years. She has been the Director of the Society since 1982. She teaches Nonprofit Management for Fort Hays State University.