(Updated) A tireless advocate for the elderly and senior citizens in the state, Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, was excited Tuesday about the new, elevated status of the legislature’s Aging Committee.
For more than a decade the committee focused on issues facing senior citizens had no power to send legislation it crafted directly to the floor of the House or the Senate or receive bills referred from the floor of either chamber.
Prague and Rep. Joseph Serra, D-Middletown, the two co-chairs of the Select Committee on Aging were able to convince their legislative leaders that it was time to elevate the “select” committee to “full” committee status.
With 14 percent of Connecticut’s population 65 years old or older, it’s never been more important to have a committee looking at the issues that impact them, Prague said. The population of individuals over the age of 65 is projected to grow by 64 percent from 2006 through 2030.
“The older population really needs our help,” Serra said. “This change gives us the opportunity to be much more efficient.”
Prague said the Aging Committee doesn’t look at itself as a committee of Democrats and Republicans. It is primarily concerned about how legislation is going to affect the elderly in the state, she said.
Rep. Livvy Floren, R-Greenwich, said Connecticut is the 7th oldest state in the union and the elderly population is increasing exponentially. She said it’s important the state designs delivery systems to meet their needs.
Sen. Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, the newest member of the committee, said changing the status of the committee “puts the aging issue where it rightly belongs, at the forefront of the legislative process.”
Years ago the state got rid of its Department of Aging and replaced it with a Commission on Aging, which is managed by four part-time staff members and a volunteer board. The Commission on Aging’s budget was cut by about 53 percent in 2009.
“By any name, the legislature’s committee to address issues specific to senior citizens has been the focal point of policy development for the aging community ever since the now-defunct state Department on Aging was disbanded by then-Governor Weicker,” Prague said.
Some of the issues the new and improved Aging Committee will address this year include requiring air conditioning in nursing homes and criminal background checks for home health care workers.