Aging services in Minnesota are many and varied. From funding for long-term care and home health care services to nutrition programs to affordable senior housing to home improvements to protection from predators and discrimination.
These services cost millions of dollars each year and are offered through state departments and agencies including the Department of Human Services (DHS), Department of Health, Department of Public Safety, the Attorney General’s office, Minnesota Board on Aging (MBA), and the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. Aging services are also administered through local governments and the state’s seven Area Agencies on Aging.
For the most part, the state’s aging services are high quality and are adequately meeting the needs of the state’s elderly. The problem, however, is that the service needs are projected to go through the roof as the large Baby Boomer generation moves into and beyond retirement age. Exacerbating this is a lack of coordination among the various state departments, agencies, councils and boards that provide aging programs and services.
There is no clear aging service network in Minnesota government and this has resulted in a lack of direction and focus on statewide aging issues. Many in state leadership have thought that this coordination responsibility rests with the MBA, which serves as the state’s federally designated Unit on Aging. In reality, however, the MBA, which consists of 22 volunteer members and staff shared with DHS, has neither the funding nor the authority to fill this extremely important leadership void.
Never in Minnesota’s history have we faced the challenges of serving the needs of such a huge growing population of elders. Within the next few years, people over the age of 65 will make up almost one-fourth of the total state’s population. Fueled by the huge number of Baby Boomers (people born in the years following the end of World War II), Minnesota will be the home to 500,000 older adults over age 75 by the year 2030, according to statistics released recently by Susan Brower, Minnesota State Demographer.
It is only through a coordinated service approach that service needs will be met for a generation of people interested in staying active well into their 70s and 80s and intent upon continuing to live in their own homes or, at least, in their communities. This will require an unprecedented level of services and programs to allow this generation to live the kind of lives they want and deserve.
Looking across the landscape of aging services in Minnesota, many professionals and advocates are sounding the alarm about the lack of coordination. Hearing the panic in the voices and seeing the signs of stress on the services, Minnesota State Rep. Ginny Klevorn, DFL-Plymouth, crafted a bill calling for the convening of a legislative task force to “review and prioritize resources to support an aging demographic in the state.”
HF 979, with 20 co-authors, is going through the legislative hearing process as is its Senate companion bill (SF 1022). The initiative is receiving widespread support from many individuals and organizations involved in - and advocating - for aging services in Minnesota. If passed through the Legislature and signed by Gov. Walz, the task force would begin its work this summer and release its findings by Jan. 15, 2025.
The legislation calls for a task force populated by representatives of state government leaders, the disability community, aging higher education, and diverse populations. The extent of their work, as described in Klevorn’s bill, is deep and wide and will delve into every aspect of aging services in Minnesota.
We support this bipartisan-supported legislative initiative and urge its passage. The aging population of Minnesota, now and into the future, deserve our best efforts to secure for them a statewide coordinated approach to services and programs they will need to live securely, comfortably and productively in the state they have supported and built over many years of residency.
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