Ohio’s senior population and their families are coming together to form the Ohio Aging Advocacy Coalition to identify serious issues and help develop cost effective solutions to avoid a financial and health care crisis. The coalition is supported by the state’s leading organizations that provide a variety of services to Ohio’s aging community.
The coalition is led by Barbara Riley, former director of the Ohio Department of Aging, who is a longtime advocate for Ohio’s senior population. Riley described the goal of the coalition as “sharing the voices of older Ohioans and advocating for the needs and possible policy solutions” so that all Ohioans can “age in the place we call home.”
Riley said “those who are over age 65 are part of the phalanx of the ‘age wave’ about to break over Ohio,” straining family as well as state financial resources and making it ever more difficult to provide essential services.
In 2000, she noted, there were 1.5 million Ohioans 65 and older. In 2020 the number is projected to be 2.1 million and by 2040 it will be 2.8 million, with 20% over the age of 85.
“Clearly, this will have a significant impact on public policy regarding aging issues, as well as the state budget. Ohio spends 36% of its Medicaid budget on long term services and supports, and with our aging population and without significant change in how we do business, that percentage will create unsustainable budget pressures,” she said.
Riley was joined at the news conference by Robert Applebaum with the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University and one of the leading experts in the country regarding senior issues.
“Changes have been made in Ohio that have been beneficial, but we are now reaching a point where we can no longer just do a better job of managing resources,” he said. “We need to have a thorough discussion about fundamental changes that must be made if we are to provide the quality of life our seniors deserve without bankrupting families as well as the state budget.”
Riley noted the individual organizations supporting the coalition provide essential services, but currently there is not a single state organization representing aging consumers, their families, or their caregivers. “The coalition will do that,” she said.
“If we are to maintain our well-being as we age, and prevent the costs of aging services from soaring, now is the time to be develop public policies that address our needs and issues, and the needs and issues of those who assume caregiving responsibilities. Clearly, it is seniors and our caregivers who can best inform policy makers about our needs,” said Riley.
Among the critical needs, she said, are basic items as transportation, housing, in-home services, necessary rehabilitation or longer term assisted living and nursing facility care, nutrition and meals, adult protective services and affordable health care.
In addition to the aging population in Ohio, there will be a large decline in the number of available caregivers, putting added strain on resources.
“Beyond the cost factor is the well-being of our seniors – ourselves, our parents and our grandparents, who have worked hard and deserve the assurance that when we need services those services will be available. There are many stories of how Ohio has laid the foundation for seniors to age with grace, but many other stories spotlight how a lack of services can make our later years a time of difficulty, fear and uncertainty,” said Riley.
“What we do now to assure that today’s seniors and those of the future have access, choice, and affordable quality care will provide us all with long term well-being, and will assist us in preventing an over-reliance on Medicaid funded care as we age in place, in a place we can call home. This is a call to action to give seniors our voice and to make sure our voice is heard,” she said.
The Ohio Aging Advocacy Coalition is supported by the following organizations:
-Alzheimer’s Association, Northwest Ohio Chapter
-Meals on Wheels Association of Ohio
-Ohio Assisted Living Association
-Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging
-Ohio Association of Gerontology & Education
-Ohio Association of Senior Centers
-Ohio Council for Home Care & Hospice
-Ohio Coalition for Adult Protective Services