Editor’s note: This is th­­e eighth and final editorial in a yearlong series on issues facing Minnesota’s aging population.

Like an exclamation point at the end of a sentence, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order establishing the Governor’s Council on an Age-Friendly Minnesota just as the last editorial in our 2019 series, The Aging of Minnesota, was being planned.

The order, signed Dec. 11, put into action a two-year campaign to position the state for designation as an “age friendly” state. The governor’s order calls for a collective effort “that requires coordination, collaboration, innovation, and focus across state agencies.”

As such, the governor’s council is charged with coordinating state and private sector partners. Members will be chosen from the Minnesota Board on Aging, Department of Commerce, Department of Employment and Economic Development, Department of Health, Housing Finance Agency, Human Services, Department of Transportation, Department of Veterans Affairs and the Metropolitan Council.

The council will focus on eight domains of livability set out by creators of the age-friendly designation. We are excited that every age-related issue addressed in the Adams Publishing – ECM Editorial Board 2019 series is represented in the eight domains, which are outdoor spaces and buildings, housing, transportation, civic participation and employment, respect and social inclusion, social participation, communication and information, and community and health services.

By signing this executive order, the governor is calling the entire state to a higher awareness of the challenges and opportunities in all areas of society and the economy with the rapid growth of residents over the age of 65 years. This is a welcome and important move by a governor who has focused much of his public life addressing the needs of youth.

Calling attention in his executive order to the fact that in 2020, the number of older adults in Minnesota over age 65 will exceed the number of children under age 18, shows that Gov. Walz is giving balanced attention to the important needs of all segments of the population, with the extreme needs of one group not overshadowing or wiping out the needs of the other.

We agree with this. Even though we have spent recent months highlighting and focusing on the needs, challenges and opportunities of Minnesota’s growing over-65 population, this should not become a winners-and-losers situation. The governor’s call to focus state government attention on the needs of the state’s eldest population should include that, wherever possible, this work will also positively impact the lives, health, and education of the state’s youngest residents.

We started out our 2019 editorial series, The Aging of Minnesota, in February by chronicling the birth of the baby boomer generation after World War II and how this large demographical population is now retiring and will soon stretch and stress public and private programs and services needed by them.

Our second editorial focused on the elder abuse crisis raging in Minnesota. We highlighted the statistics on the growing number of serious abuse cases being reported to authorities by people living in long-term care and assisted living facilities throughout the state. Several of the legislative solutions we supported were successfully passed and signed into law during the 2019 session.

Subsequent editorials centered on the need to rephrase how we think and talk about aging, the growing number of elderly living in poverty with few options for relief, the distinct shortage of workers to fill service positions in all areas of elderly care (in home and residential), and quality of life disparities between older whites and nonwhites.

So we end our 2019 editorial series here but are confident that the conversation about the need for action to ensure that all older Minnesotans live fulfilling lives will continue at kitchen and conference tables all over the state. And, thanks to the recent action by Gov. Walz, we now look with hope to Minnesota becoming the most age-friendly state in the nation.

An opinion of the Adams Publishing – ECM Editorial Board. The Forest Lake Times is an APG-ECM publication.

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