Yesterday U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and John Boozman (R-AR) introduced bipartisan legislation that would direct federal agencies to set national standards for healthy aging and creating age-friendly communities.
The Age-Friendly Communities Act would amend the Older Americans Act by requiring departments across the federal government to develop a national set of goals on healthy aging and age-friendly communities and establish a public-private coordinating body to provide recommendations and best practices for implementing those goals. Age-friendly communities are those committed to working toward ensuring their seniors have access to amenities such as housing, transportation, social and civic opportunities, volunteerism, employment, and supportive services. The national set of goals will also support aging in place and senior access to preventive and long-term care, including home- and community-based health services and caregivers.
“As increasingly larger generations of Michiganders and Americans enter into the later stages of adulthood and retirement, it is important to have meaningful public and private initiatives that help allow our senior citizens to continue leading healthy and independent lives,” said Senator Peters. “This bipartisan legislation recognizes we need a cross-sector and comprehensive approach to supporting older Americans on a community-wide basis, from transportation and affordable housing to caregiving and aging in place.”
This bill would bring numerous federal entities to the table to discuss a national set of goals to support healthy aging and age-friendly communities, including the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, and the Department of Labor, among others.
“It is critical that any federal initiatives build upon established systems of coordination without duplicating them,” said Karla Ann Fales, CMBA/HCM, CEO, CareWell Services Southwest. “We are supportive of Senator Peters’ Age-Friendly Communities Act to promote the well-being of older adults through cross-sector models of coordination. The bill strikes a balance between national goals and state and local implementation efforts.”
There’s a growing aging population in the U.S. including in Michigan. There is projected to be more than 3 million Michiganders over the age of 55 by 2020, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation and the University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy. By 2030, that number is projected grow to over 3.5 million. Nationally, according to the Census, by 2030 all baby boomers will be older than age 65, which is estimated to expand the size of the older population so that 1 in every 5 residents will be retirement age.
The Age-Friendly Communities Act has broad support from organizations across Grand Rapids and Southwest Michigan.
“Our older citizens represent the heart of America’s knowledge base, financial strength, and experience,” said Lynn Kellogg, CEO of Region IV Area Agency on Aging. “Age-friendly communities promote connectivity across generations to the benefit of all. Intergenerational communities are healthy communities, and the Age-Friendly Communities Act will support local efforts to in achieving that goal.”