The good news is that Connecticut is ahead of many states — and has been for years — in recognizing that senior citizens prefer to stay in their homes as they age, rather than being relocated to an institutional setting.
The challenging news is that the percentage of older adults in our state continues to increase.
We must exercise particular vigilance in public policy around elderly issues in the coming years, and responding sooner is better than later. The data highlights the imperative, and the anecdotal evidence emphasizes how effective and economical care-at-home can be. The combination underscores the importance of Connecticut’s next State Plan on Aging, which is now in the early stages of development and will take effect by next year.
Connecticut is the sixth-oldest state in the nation. The entire country is aging, but Connecticut and most New England states are aging faster. It is projected that by 2025, older adults will comprise at least 20% of the population of more than 140 of Connecticut’s 169 cities and towns. In 2010, fewer than 20 communities surpassed that threshold.
Connecticut’s 65-and-up numbers increased from 14.2% to an estimated 16.2% of the total state population of 3.6 million between 2010 and 2016. That’s an increase of 70,000 seniors in just six years — at a time when total state population was declining.
According to the Home Care Association of America (HCAOA), 90% of people age 65 and over would prefer to stay in their own homes as they age, rather than entering a nursing home or assisted living facility. Homecare companies help make home possible, and they give their clients peace of mind by conducting background checks on all employees, and by ensuring that caregivers are fully trained and supervised.
The HCAOA report also points out that employer-based homecare agencies provide a dependable, reliable source of caregivers for families, and they comply with licensing and labor laws, important for both caregivers and those they serve.
During my first stint in the Senate back in the 1980s, I authored and sponsored legislation creating the state’s first homecare program for seniors. Its unanimous passage was my proudest legislative achievement: that program now serves thousands of Connecticut seniors, while saving taxpayers millions of dollars each year.
The heart and soul of the industry are the people on the front lines, who provide compassionate care day in and day out. They come from varied backgrounds, but each has made the individual decision that caring for another person is the most satisfying way to spend their own life. Their remarkable dedication is inspiring — and indispensable.
As one caregiver recently described it, “Being able to take care of somebody who can’t do something for themselves, I think that just means the world — to me and to them.” Added another, “It’s just knowing that any little thing I can do for them, lets them stay where they are.”
Connecticut’s State Unit on Aging, within the Department of Aging and Disability Services, recently began work on a new three-year strategic plan encompassing services for older adults in Connecticut. The state’s current plan ends in September. The agency held five “Community Conversations” to gather input from older adults, caregivers and professionals in the field. We look forward to opportunities for more voices to be heard and carefully considered, and to essential elements of measurement and accountability being included in the final, comprehensive plan.
The next few years will be pivotal if Connecticut is to have policies in place to support the efforts of families all across our state to act in the best interest of their aging family members. Every Connecticut resident has a stake in the outcome, as the decisions made in the coming months will impact all of us for years to come.
Collectively, we have made some good decisions in the past. We need to do so again. Our families and communities deserve nothing less.
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