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Senate Passes Peters’ Bipartisan Measures to Support Healthy Aging and Age-Friendly Communities

03.04.20

WASHINGTON, DC –U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) welcomed Senate passage of bipartisan provisions he introduced to support age-friendly communities in Michigan and across the nation. The measures based on his Age-Friendly Communities Act would establish a committee to bring agencies from across the federal government together to develop a national set of goals on healthy aging and age-friendly communities. The measures, which Peters introduced with Senator John Boozman (R-AR), passed the Senate as part of the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, our country’s preeminent law focused on the wellbeing of seniors.

“With a growing number of Michiganders and Americans entering into the later stages of adulthood and retirement, dependable access to quality healthcare, housing and transportation services is essential to leading happy, independent lives,” said Senator Peters. “My bipartisan measures would help provide the resources needed to support a new generation of older Americans and seniors throughout their retirement years, and I look forward to this legislation being signed into law.”

“America’s senior population is growing rapidly. Those numbers will continue to skyrocket, with projections pointing to a 129 percent increase in the number of older Americans over the age of 85 over the next 20 years. Clearly, our communities need to be prepared to meet the needs of an aging population. The language Senator Peters and I included in this bill is based on best practices, many of which are already incorporated in Arkansas’s state plan on aging. Our approach will help bring communities together to address this challenge by creating public-private partnerships to modernize long-term care practices and increase access to preventative care services older Americans need, while helping to make our communities more age-friendly across the country,” Boozman said.

As part of Peters’ Age-Friendly Community Act, the Senate passed measures to define “age-friendly communities” within federal law and to authorize the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to share best practices on sustaining age-friendly communities with state and local elected officials and age-friendly community leaders.

The broader Older Americans Act reauthorizes the bill for the next five years and increases funding levels. This legislation will strengthen a range of senior programs and services, including those related to caregiving, nutrition and social support, transportation, and other initiatives to help seniors age in place and live independently in their homes and communities. The legislation has broad support including from AARP, the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, the National Area Agencies on Aging, National Alliance for Caregiving, Meals on Wheels America and the Alzheimer’s Association.

“The Area Agency on Aging 1-B shares the goal of the Age-Friendly Communities Act introduced by Senator Peters to create more age-friendly communities across the country, including in southeast Michigan,” said Jim McGuire, Director of Research, Policy Development and Advocacy for Area Agency on Aging 1-B. “Achieving age-friendly community recognition is a great first step toward the system-wide changes we need to support aging in place.”

“We have just begun to see the effects of our rapidly aging population, and it is already clear that financial resources alone will not be enough to address the challenges ahead,” said Jeff McBee, Director of Monroe County Community Planning & Engagement Department, Monroe County Commission on Aging. “It’s going to take all segments of our society working together to support the needs of older adults in the years to come, and the Age-Friendly Communities Act introduced by Senators Peters and Boozman provides a framework to do just that.”

“Local communities are experiencing the drastic influx of requests for senior services every day,” said Stephanie Zorn Kasprzak, Executive Director, Monroe County Opportunity Program. “The bipartisan Age-Friendly Communities Act led by Senator Peters will help us remain responsive and promote efficiencies, while also working collaboratively to ensure that older adults can age as they wish with the dignity they deserve.”

“We are pleased about Senator Peters’ introduction of the bipartisan Age-Friendly Communities Act,” said Jackie O’Connor, Executive Director, Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan. “Those of us working for organizations that strive every day to make people’s lives better are aware of the obstacles that hinder older adults and caregivers from living their best lives. Age-friendly cities can help remove barriers to community spaces, expand access to affordable housing and transportation, and improve access to information and services. This age-friendly legislative effort will have a positive and lasting impact on individuals and families across the nation.”

“With our experience coordinating care for seniors on a daily basis, PACE Southeast Michigan recognizes the value of the Age-Friendly Communities Act to promote public and private partnerships that help meet the needs of older Americans at home and throughout the community,” said Mary Naber, President and CEO of PACE Southeast Michigan. “We fully support Senator Peters’ efforts to assist seniors in our state.” 

“With an increasing older population here in St. Clair County, there needs to be greater discussion on affordable senior housing, as well as assisted senior living,” said Scott Crawford, Executive Director, Council on Aging in St. Clair County. “We’ve had some successes addressing these issues because we’ve incorporated close coordination here on the ground, and I’m pleased that Senator Peters is leading an effort to improve coordination on the federal level.”

“When older Americans are able to fully participate in communities, as Senator Peters’ bill aims to achieve, everybody benefits. We know this firsthand from our Foster Grandparent program, which has been shown to help seniors live longer, healthier, and happier lives, while also serving special needs students in the classroom,” said Sandy Bowers, Foster Grandparent Program Supervisor, Washtenaw County Offices of Community & Economic Development. “The Age-Friendly Communities Act introduced by Senators Peters and Boozman supports partnerships that will strengthen communities as a whole.”

“Communities that combat isolation and disconnectedness by considering how adults want to live, age, and grow can thrive as vibrant places for Americans of any age,” said Tamera Kiger, CEO, Senior Alliance, Area Agency on Aging 1C. “Passing Senator Peters’ bipartisan Age-Friendly Communities Act would have numerous positive impacts. From health and wellness to recreation and accessibility, building connected communities improves peoples’ lives as they age.”

“It is critical that any federal initiatives build upon established systems of coordination without duplicating them,” said Karla Ann Fales, CMBA/HCM, CEO, CareWell Services Southwest. “We are supportive of Senator Peters’ Age-Friendly Communities Act to promote the well-being of older adults through cross-sector models of coordination. The bill strikes a balance between national goals and state and local implementation efforts.”

“At Silver Maples of Chelsea Retirement Neighborhood, we see the benefits of supportive community living on a daily basis,” said Emily Meloche, Director of Programming and Wellness, Silver Maples of Chelsea. “We support Senator Peters’ work through the introduction of the Age-Friendly Communities Act to give our country’s older adults opportunities and resources for a positive aging experience.”

“There is a tremendous need and opportunity to better serve the rapidly growing aging population in Michigan. Henry Ford Village strongly supports Senator Peters’ Age-Friendly Communities Act to increase healthy aging and age-friendly communities through greater coordination of resources,” said Adam Sterling, Resident Life & Business Development Director at Henry Ford Village.

“We are grateful to Senator Peters for the introduction of the Age-Friendly Communities Act. This legislation will bring stakeholders together to better recognize and address the role that social influencers of health play in the well-being of elders,” said Elizabeth Buckley, Integrity and Compliance Officer, Trinity Health at Home. “Passing this bill would help people in our Michigan communities gain greater access to caregivers and to home- and community-based services when they need them. By doing so, we can empower people with more choices as they decide whether they prefer to ‘age in place.’ Trinity Health At Home looks forward to exchanging and implementing best practices with other stakeholders in this area.”

“Our older citizens represent the heart of America’s knowledge base, financial strength, and experience,” said Lynn Kellogg, CEO of Region IV Area Agency on Aging. “Age-friendly communities promote connectivity across generations to the benefit of all. Intergenerational communities are healthy communities, and the Age-Friendly Communities Act will support local efforts to in achieving that goal.”

“Senator Gary Peters and Senator Boozman are to be highly commended for introducing the Age-Friendly Communities Act. The anticipated positive outcomes from this welcomed change in national policy would greatly improve the quality of life for our fastest-growing population. We look forward to experiencing the enhanced coordination, collaboration and cooperation among the relevant federal agencies and other organizations across the country with a shared goal of making all communities more age-friendly,” said Roger Myers, President & CEO of Presbyterian Villages of Michigan.

“As a mission-driven provider of service-enriched affordable housing communities for seniors in Michigan and across the Eastern U.S., Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) understands the crucial importance of cross-sector, interagency coordination to ensure America’s communities can support healthy aging,” said Patricia Belden, President, POAH Communities. “We strongly support Senator Peters’ Age-Friendly Communities Act as a way to promote those goals.”

“Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency (NEMCSA), believes that Senator Peters’ bipartisan Age-Friendly Communities Act will align with the mission of Community Action in supporting and providing a plan for older Americans to have access to fundamental needs in their communities,” said Lisa Bolen, Executive Director, NEMCSA. “This is of great importance in Northeast Michigan with its rapidly aging population.” 

“As the older adult population grows exponentially over the next 30 years, nationally and particularly in northern Michigan, Grand Traverse Pavilions applauds Senator Peter’s effort to bring focus to this impending crisis if not adequately addressed. This cohort of baby-boomers entering retirement will bring new and increased demands that will challenge and stress the current infrastructure of services to the aged,” said Kory Hansen, Administrator/CEO, Grand Traverse Pavilions. “Proactive planning is critical to meet the comprehensive issues surrounding healthy aging and well-being that promote the quality of life for older Americans. As one of the largest aging adult continuums of care in the state, we are encouraged by Senator Peters’ bill to support age-friendly communities. As an organization, we fully endorse the goals outlined in the Age-Friendly Communities Act and will lend our expertise regarding aging adult health care issues and related services.”

“Trinity Health Michigan applauds Senator Peters’ introduction of the Age-Friendly Communities Act and its focus on meeting the long-term needs of older Americans by bringing together a broad cross-section of federal entities to create a national set of goals on healthy aging and age-friendly communities,” said Rob Casalou, President and CEO, Trinity Health Michigan Region. “As health care providers, we know that addressing the social determinants of health, such as access to transportation and social connectedness, directly impacts overall health for patients and, subsequently, the entire community.  We look forward to working collaboratively with these federal agencies and other community partners to ensure seniors have the best quality of life possible.”

“The Detroit Area Agency on Aging strongly supports this worthwhile legislation to make our communities more age-friendly, said Ronald Taylor, President and Chief Executive Officer, Detroit Area Agency on Aging. “We commend Senator Peters for introducing the Age-Friendly Communities Act and being a pathfinder in breaking down silos that act as barriers to creating livable communities in our nation.”

“CareWell Services, as well as our aging network partners, are poised to support the implementation of age-friendly communities,” said Karla Fales, Chief Executive Officer, CareWell Services Southwest. “We’ve given a strong focus to this in our efforts for many years and are encouraged to have it incorporated into the Older Americans Act which will raise its awareness among multiple partners and systems. It’s that important as we continue to move to a more age-dominant society. Ensuring the respect, dignity, and access to support and continued independence benefits all of us and makes our communities stronger.”

There’s a growing aging population in the U.S. including in Michigan. There is projected to be more than 3 million Michiganders over the age of 55 as of this year, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation and the University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy. By 2030, that number is projected grow to over 3.5 million.  Nationally, according to the Census, by 2030 all baby boomers will be older than age 65, which is estimated to expand the size of the older population to 1 in every 5 residents being in retirement age.

Peters has long been a champion the Senate for Michigan seniors. Last year, he helped reintroduce bipartisan legislation to expand health care access in both rural and underserved communities by providing additional pathways for Medicare to cover increased telehealth services. Additionally, Peters joined his colleagues to introduce legislation to strengthen the bargaining rights of seniors on the cost of prescription drugs by authorizing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to take part in negotiations between drug manufacturers, pharmacies and Medicare Part D sponsors. Furthermore, Peters helped pass bipartisan legislation that was signed into law to help prevent pharmaceutical companies from using anticompetitive practices to block generic drugs and to bring lower cost versions of insulin to market more quickly.

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