By Cassie Steele
The Governor’s Council recently published its initial recommendations to improve life for seniors in the state, following nine months of intensive aimed at “making Massachusetts the most age-friendly state for people of all ages.”
The report was based largely on input provided by 500 residents, who shared their many concerns, including their desire for greater independence and economic freedom.
In this post, we highlight the main issues faced by seniors and suggestions made by the council to increase the quality of life of Massachusetts’ elderly population.
The main problems identified by the report
The elderly are facing a host of difficult challenges in the state, including low economic security.
The report points out that almost 30 percent of households lived in by those aged over 65 in MA have an income of below $20,000.
Seniors desire greater access to affordable health and supportive services. Many wish to continue living in their homes independently.
By counting on health technology devices and the prompt attention of health services should an emergency ensue, they can continue to enjoy maximum independence for as many years as possible but access to these technologies is difficult when one can barely meet monthly expenses.
Solitude is a problem
Loneliness among older adults is a major public health problem for seniors the world over, and Massachusetts is no exception.
Some of the risk factors for their lower level of social participation higher age, illness, lower socioeconomic status, and ethnic minority status.
The Governor’s Council noted that seniors in Massachusetts seek more age-friendly communities they can form part of.
They also wish to have more opportunities for connection and engagement.
Recommendations for Improved Quality of Life
The report recommended specific steps for the improvement of quality of life among the elderly.
These include promoting the benefits of hiring mature employees and keeping them employed, establishing an age-friendly employer recognition programs, and supporting training for older job seekers.
Efforts also need to be made to increase the supply of affordable and supportive housing, to replicate successful models that match health and social services with housing, and to develop partnerships for in-home technology so the elderly feel more secure at home.
Finally, specific savings and leverage of assets can be achieved through increased awareness of sponsoring retirement plans, promoting earlier life planning, etc.
Affordability of services and a sense of community are key
The council also suggested the use of new technology for improved transportation, the promotion of diversity, and the provision of stronger support to older adults and their carers.
Meanwhile, a sense of community can be fostered by finding inspiration from existing organizations with a high success rate, by implementing changes state-wide, and by changing the public’s views on aging and promoting greater inclusion of elderly citizens.
The Governor’s Council made a wide range of recommendations aimed at increasing economic power among seniors, facilitating connection, and increasing diversity and inclusion.
Their aims are ambitious, and include the wish to convert Massachusetts into “the Silicon Valley of innovation in aging and exports knowledge and services.”
Although this aim may seem lofty, it steps will hopefully be adopted towards improving the quality of life of seniors throughout our state.