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Looking Out for Seniors: Maine Lawmakers Get Back to Work

Senior advocates want lawmakers to consider measures that will help the growing number of older Mainers age comfortably in their own homes and communities. (AARP-Maine)
Senior advocates want lawmakers to consider measures that will help the growing number of older Mainers age comfortably in their own homes and communities. (AARP-Maine)
January 4, 2017

AUGUSTA, Maine – As state lawmakers get back to work, advocates for seniors say they should put more focus on the needs of the aging population in the "oldest" state in the nation.

Support for working caregivers, affordable housing, and protection of home and community-based services are among the top agenda items for AARP Maine, according to volunteer State President Rich Livingston.

He said Maine edges out both New Hampshire and Vermont as the oldest state, in terms of median age, and lawmakers must consider the needs of this graying population.

"That the legislative priorities align with the priorities of the senior population, and who have been very clear about their preference to age in place, to stay in their own homes and own communities," he said.

Livingston said there are 178,000 family caregivers in Maine. His organization is supporting legislation that would provide tax breaks to offer some relief from the pressure of caregiving, and also open up opportunities for families to seek professional care.

Livingston said people who care for aging family members often need help with a wide range of expenses, and the bottom line is, the state saves money every time it helps a family caregiver.

"Family caregivers in Maine provide more than $2 billion, with a 'B,' dollars worth of support and services to family members every year," he added. "And if it weren't for these people, those needs would have to be met some other, more expensive way."

He said other priorities include protecting the funding for the Medicare savings program, and Maine's Low-Cost Drugs for the Elderly and Disabled program.

"These are programs that are critical to some of the most vulnerable seniors in the state, and we want to make sure those baseline programs are protected," Livingston continued. "So, that's where we're starting from."

Livingston also said that AARP Maine will also work to see that lawmakers put a priority on financial security and affordable utilities in 2017.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME