By Ramona du Houx - October 20th, 2014
Maine’s House Speaker Mark Eves. Photo by Ramona du Houx.
A statewide plan to help older adults age in their homes and communities got strong backing from local area seniors and community leaders during a forum at Brewer Medical Center, this fall.
More than area fifty seniors, community leaders, and aging experts attended the forum with Maine House Speaker Mark Eves, who sought input on his package of bills to redirect state resources to help seniors live independently longer.
“Brewer and Bangor are on the leading edge of our state’s rapidly aging population,” said Eves of North Berwick. ‘We heard great feedback from local leaders and seniors about what’s working here. No matter where you go in the state, seniors are concerned about rising property taxes, access to affordable housing, high heating costs and direct care services. We know these challenges are real barriers for seniors who want to live independently in their communities where they raised a generation.”
Eves is proposing a package of measures, called the KeepME Home plan, to create affordable housing for seniors in each of Maine’s 16 counties through a $65 million housing bond; boost pay for in-home care workers who have not had a raise in nearly a decade; and expand property tax credits for seniors.
“It’s wonderful to have our state leaders prioritize plans to help seniors age in our homes and communities,” said Audrey Dyer, who has lived in her home on Hogan Street in Bangor since 1954. “I’m fortunate to have my family around but so many Maine seniors don’t have help and are struggling with property taxes or heating their homes.”
Dyer is the grandma of State Rep. Adam Goode of Bangor who brought her to the event. Seniors, direct care workers, and aging experts who attended the event repeated the concerns Dyer raised throughout the hour-long forum Tuesday morning.
Maine is the oldest state in the nation. One in four Mainers will be over the age of 65 by 2030, according to U.S. census projections.
Brewer Mayor Jerry Goss, Bangor Mayor Ben Sprague and local state legislators joined the forum and spoke about the leadership the cities have taken on affordable housing for seniors.
“Brewer has great models of affordable housing for seniors,” said Rep. Archie Verow of Brewer. “Our area has led efforts to help seniors remain more independent. I’m committed to continuing that work to help seniors age in their homes and communities.”
Verow joined Eves for a tour of the new Chamberlain senior housing units in the town following the forum.
Eves and Verow said the Chamberlain affordable housing unit could be a good model for the Speaker’s housing proposal because it was built with housing authority bond funds and also uses tax credits for seniors to help finance the cost of the facility.
The KeepME Home plan is part of a culmination of nearly a year of work collaborating with aging experts, caregivers, municipal, and business leaders. The proposals will serve as key pieces of a larger package of legislation on aging in the 127th Legislature, which convenes in December.