Maine has one of the oldest populations in the country, whether you look at it through the lens of median age (44.6, the oldest in the country) or the percent of persons 65 or older (18.8%, the second oldest). As part of our mission to honor our commitments to Mainers who have worked hard their whole lives, we need to build a growing, innovative economy that provides good jobs and attracts a growing population of younger people so that the State can maintain.
First and foremost, while Maine seniors are a diverse bunch when it comes to finances, there are many who struggle to make ends meet on fixed incomes. We need to protect retirement income that has been earned over a lifetime, whether it is Social Security, a pension, or being vigilant about rules regarding private retirement funds.
Second, policymakers need to keep in mind that any spike in living costs – whether it is higher heating or health care costs, increased property taxes, or other costs – can force terrible choices between food, medicine, heat or other essentials needed to live comfortably. The cost of prescription drugs is a huge burden, and creating uncertainty about health care coverage is incredibly damaging and, I know in my community, very scary for people.
One of the great wishes Mainers have as they get older is to be able to stay in their homes and communities, near their family and friends. There have been recent small pilot projects towards creating more senior housing to meet that need. There are other ways, as well, that the state can innovate, grow our economy and improve the quality of life for Maine seniors.
- Broadband infrastructure and home health care. One more reason to invest in true high-speed broadband across Maine is this: The entire medical industry is moving towards being able to offer more and more health care services, preventive care, and monitoring via home technology. This offers tremendous opportunities for Maine seniors to be able to stay in their homes longer and in better health, while reducing health care costs dramatically – but only if Mainers are able to connect at the speeds required.
- Renewable energy and home power and heating costs. One of the most variable costs, as Mainers know all too well, is the price of a gallon of home heating oil. When it jumps up, so many Mainers – again – are forced into the math of how many gallons of oil they can afford and do they need to split their prescription pill in half. I believe Maine’s renewable energy future, with abundant, local, dependable sources of power, will provide stability in power and heating that foreign oil never will.
- Innovation and aging in place. Maine Startup and Create week had a whole panel discussion with business leaders from around the country on “How can innovation support aging in place?” As that session noted, there are 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day in the country and many entrepreneurs and companies working on how to deliver quality services that help seniors stay in their homes. We should work to attract those businesses to both create jobs and provide services to Maine seniors.