Maine’s state Legislature is moving along with a three-pronged package of bills aimed at strengthening the resources available to help its seniors age in place.
Mark Eves (D-North Berwick), speaker of Maine’s House of Representatives, last week unveiled a comprehensive set of proposals under an initiative dubbed “KeepME Home,” which addresses key concerns of older adults, including but not limited to living independently and having financial security.
At the crux of plan, the initiative aims to create affordable housing for seniors in each of Maine’s 16 counties, boost support for in-home care workers and expand property tax credits for seniors.
Each of these policies intend to create a more secure retirement for Maine seniors, said Rep. Eves in a written statement.
“Announcing the KeepME Home initiative is a first step towards raising awareness about the critical need to transform how people age in our state,” Eves stated. “Maine’s population is aging rapidly. The demographic reality is a challenge that we can change into an opportunity.”
KeepMe Home includes three specific policy proposals, including a $65 million general obligation bond to develop 1,000 “highly energy-efficient” apartments for Maine seniors in 40 locations across the state in every county; an increase to the state’s Property Tax Fairness Credit for older adults; and the first boost in nearly a decade to Medicaid reimbursement rates for direct care workers who provide in-home care and personal care services.
The push for greater housing services for seniors is evident in Maine, considering the thousands of seniors in the state that are currently on wait lists for affordable housing, according to Rep. Eves’ webpage.
Additionally, Maine is the oldest state in the nation, as one in four Mainers will be over age 65 by 2030, according to census projects highlighted by Eves.
Aging in place has been a sought after topic for Eves, who last September launched the Speaker’s Round Table on aging in partnership with the Maine Council on Aging. Additionally, Eves held also held the inaugural annual aging summit in January to bring stakeholders together to lay out a plan for action to help transform how people in Maine age.
Although older Mainers want to remain in their homes and communities as they age, they are struggling to find the housing and services they need, said Jessica Maurer, executive director of the Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging and co-chair of the Maine Council on Aging.
“The Maine Council on Aging promotes a vision for Maine where older adults are valued and thriving community members,” Maurer said in a written statement. “The KeepME Home initiatives will go a long way to achieving this vision by helping older adults remain independent not and into the future.”
Joining the Maine Council on Aging in support of Eves’ proposals are the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, the Direct Care Alliance and Associated General Contractors of Maine.
The proposals have already started to gain some traction and support among locals.
Tuesday night, nearly 2,000 Mainers participated in a tele-town hall meeting to discuss efforts to help seniors in the state age in place within their homes and communities, according to a release from Eves’ office.
Hosted by The Maine People’s Alliance, the hour-long call with Eves brought to the table a variety of personal stories from Mainers affected by the challenges of aging in the state.
“The outpouring of support was energizing and inspiring,” stated Eves in a release. “We need to do right not just by seniors but by those who care for them as well. This is the issue of the future.”
Speaker Eves’ is expected to introduce the formal proposals in December when the state Legislature reconvenes.
Written by Jason Oliva