Issues Brief

Bay Area Senior Advocates Issues Brief

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The mission of the Bay Area Senior Advocates (BASA) is to support and enrich the lives of older adults through collaboration, planning, and advocacy.

BASA is a unique blend of both public and private partnerships working together for the good of older adults, families and caregivers in our region. It is the wish of BASA that the following issues and recommendations be addressed and considered in the development of any strategic planning or service provision in our region.

A. Connection to Community:

Many seniors live in social isolation and are unable to fully participate in their community. Community engagement is connected to improved feelings of satisfaction and quality of life. Affordable and accessible housing, transportation, and designing elder friendly, “livable” communities help provide the infrastructure for community connection. Encouraging seniors to engage in their community through volunteerism, civic participation, leadership, and mentoring enhances the feeling of attachment and successful aging. Additionally, engaging the business and education communities to become involved in creative ways to assist and support these initiatives is critical.

BASA Recommendations:

1. Support and encourage communities to adopt “elder-friendly” or ‘livable’ neighborhoods and designs.
2. Support the development and enhancement of programs that connect seniors to services in their community.
3. Work with aging community partners to educate communities on the need to improve mobility options for older adults.
4.  Develop a means to gauge quality of life improvements for area seniors.
5. Support efforts to assist seniors in accessing transportation services.
6.  Work with area Chamber of Commerce on workforce and marketplace assets, issues, and barriers.

Helpful Links:

Bikability:   http://www.bikewalk.org/Senior Resources:  http://www.seniorguideandcompass.comVisitibility:   http://www.zerostep.org/index2.htAARP Livable Communities:  http://www.aarp.org/research/housing-mobility/indliving/d18311_communities.html

B.  Long-Term Care:

Long-term care is an array of health and personal care/support services needed by people who have disabilities or chronic health care needs.  Services may be short-term or long-term and may be provided in a person’s home, in the community, or in residential facilities. Many seniors rely on Medicaid programs to provide them with the support services they need.  Currently, Michigan needs to have these options and the funding to support the entire range of services available to Michigan residents.

BASA Recommendations:

Support the Governor’s Long Term Care Task force recommendations that include:

• A full array of community based care options for persons in need of long-term and short-term care,
• A single point of entry for seniors and their families that will provide a “one-stop” process for assessment, screening, and referring individuals to programs based on “person centered planning” to find the best fit for individual needs,
• Allow the funding to follow the person. The funding should not limit a person’s options but should be applied to the services needed by the individual, and
• Provide a well-trained and well-support long term care support service provider network that includes consumer education and supports consumer choice.
• Develop consumer education and family pre-planning mechanisms needed to bring awareness, information, and choice to consumers.

2. Oppose cuts to Medicare and Medicaid programs that limit funding for home and community-based care options.

Helpful Links:

Governor’s LTC Task Force:   http://www.ihcs.msu.edu/ltc/Long Term Care:  http://www.longtermcarelink.net/#answer_cornerHealthy Aging:   http://www.cdc.gov/aging/health_issues.htmOffice of Services to the Aging: http:// www.miseniors.netAAA of NW MI:  http://www.aaanm.org/

C. Transportation:

For many seniors, lack of affordable, safe, accessible transportation prevents individuals from partaking in daily living activities such as getting to and from medical appointments, shopping, as well as participating in social and recreational activities. While public transportation services exist in our Northern Michigan counties, there are some individuals that require more specialized assistance and cannot access the demand-response services or who may need to cross county lines outside of the provider’s service area. Some seniors find the direct route bus service confusing to use and have a fear of being stranded. Also, communities that provide walkable and bikeable sidewalks and streets provide an additional option for seniors to be mobile.

BASA Recommendations:

1. Support the development of alternative ride programs such as the Northwest Michigan Transportation Alliance that is providing door-to-door assistance and rides from volunteer drivers for individuals who are unable to utilize the public transportation services.
2. Support the development of voucher programs that allow flexibility in providing rides for seniors who have the greatest social-economic need.
3. Support the development of cross-county connectors for regional public transportation systems.
4. Promote and encourage “walkable and bikeable community” designs.

Helpful Links:

Transportation:   http://www.aarp.org/research/housing-mobility/transportationin_brief_the_impact_of_federal_programs_on_transpo.htmlTransportation:   http://www.unitedweride.gov/

D. Housing:

The majority of seniors would like to “age in place.”  That is, to live in a home that will serve their needs throughout their lives. Unfortunately, most of the homes that are built do not incorporate accessibility as a standard design feature; instead it is thought to be the exception. Building homes that are “visit-able” is to incorporate simple design features that ensure that if an individual comes to a point in life when they need a wheelchair or a walker, that home will not become a barrier to that person’s ability to live there. Simple changes in building design such as a no-step entry, wider door and hallways, wider floor areas in kitchens and bathrooms will ensure that the home will be usable for people of all ages and abilities.

BASA Recommendations:

1. Support and promote changes in building practices that improve accessibility for home and residential units.
2. Provide educational programs for seniors and builders on visit-ability, accessibility, and universal design.
3. Support policy changes that incorporate visit-ability concepts in building practices; support and encourage Certified Aging In Place
(CAP) Programs.
4. Help area seniors understand all their housing options. There can come a time when “aging in place” is just not practical. People need to understand and know what signs signify the need to be in a safer environment.

Helpful Links:

Housing:  http://www.zerostep.org/index2.htm

E. Medicare/Medicaid:

Medicare/Medicaid is an essential part of maintaining the health of seniors and persons with disabilities. Medicare must be protected from budget cuts that would lead to decreased quality of care for our seniors and persons with disabilities. Any reform to Medicare must ensure that the program will be able to continue to provide affordable, quality health care coverage.

BASA Recommendations:

1. Protect Medicare from budget cuts that will decrease the quality of care for seniors and persons with disabilities
2. Support measures that strengthen the program.
3. Provide feedback to policy makers on Medicare’s ability to meet the needs of the senior population.
4. Work more closely with MMAP (Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program) and get more seniors to use their service and more volunteers to be trained to offer assistance.

Helpful Links:

 AARP:   http://www.aarp.org/research/Medicare:   http://www.medicare.gov/AAA NW MI:  http://www.aaanm.org/

F. Senior Abuse and Exploitation:

Every year we hear stories about seniors who are abused and exploited. Senior abuse includes, not just physical abuse, but also emotional, and mental abuse. Many seniors are vulnerable to physical abuse and financial exploitation. To better protect seniors from criminal activity it is important to educate seniors, their families, and community groups about fraudulent consumer practices, abuse and exploitation, and senior rights. This also includes electronic media and identity theft issues.

BASA Recommendations:

1. Work with local law enforcement and the media to educate seniors, senior residential agencies, and community groups on consumer protection and legal rights.
2. Provide information on abuse and exploitation and senior rights.
3. Identify legal services available to low-income seniors.
4. Educate business communities on ‘best practices’ that encourage high standards of business ethics, customer service, and buyer satisfaction.

Helpful Links:

Catholic Human Services:  http://www.caregivernorth.org/

G. Health and Wellness:

Currently, fourteen percent of Michigan’s population is age 65 or older.  By the year 2030, it is expected that Michigan’s senior population will increase to 25 percent of the population.  According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, 84 percent of Michigan’s seniors live with one chronic disease or disability.  Since nearly 80 percent of healthcare spending is on treating chronic conditions, the impact that the growing aging population will have on the healthcare and community support systems will be substantial.  Disease prevention and early detection efforts to deter or delay chronic disease or disability are important strategies to reduce the economic burden to the healthcare systems while improving the quality of life of Michigan seniors.  Disease prevention is best achieved through healthy lifestyle choices, such as, no tobacco use, moderate alcohol consumption, good nutrition, increased physical activity and positive mental health.

BASA Recommendations:

1. Support efforts to engage seniors in physical activity initiatives such as “Let’s Get Moving, Traverse City.”
2. Provide education on proper nutrition, tobacco cessation, and physical safety.
3. Provide sensitivity training for health care professionals on working with elders.
4. Educate seniors, family members and caregivers on the importance of understanding critical health care information.
5. Provide information on mental health issues and local services.

Basic Needs and Poverty Reduction

In Grand Traverse County nearly six percent of persons over age 65 lives in poverty.   Poverty can lead to poor health, poor nutrition, lack of adequate housing and transportation, increased social isolation and decreased quality of life.

1. Ensure that seniors are represented in the area’s on-going “Poverty Reduction Initiative.”
2. Support efforts to maintain the “Meals on Wheels” and other programs that deliver basic needs services to area seniors.
3. Support efforts such as “Senior Companion” and intergenerational programs that decrease social isolation and improve quality of life.

I. Employment and Work Force Issues:

An increasing number of seniors are delaying retirement to start a second career for financial or personal reasons.  An older worker can bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the job that is often underappreciated and underutilized.  It is becoming more common for seniors to continue to work past retirement age for financial reasons.  This trend is expected to continue as baby-boomers begin to “retire.”

1. Educate employers about the value of hiring older workers.
2. Provide incentives and opportunities to encourage seniors to participate in the workforce, through paid or volunteer positions.
3. Offer ongoing training and benefits which encourage seniors to remain in the workforce.
4. Educate employers on the care-giving, respite, and related senior issues.
5. Offer career counseling, training and entrepreneurial assistance to seniors who want to re-enter the workforce.