‘From the Capitol’ Supporting Our Seniors

February 14, 2011

Supporting Our Seniors

One of our state’s most urgent and growing needs is elder care. Proper and affordable care, nutrition, transportation and financial assistance are all things we need to consider as we age or when caring for seniors. Currently, there are state-run programs in place to aid Connecticut’s aging, but as our generation of baby boomers turns 65, those programs will be unable to sustain an increase in population. To help ease this burden and ultimately rethink the state’s approach to elder care, I proposed a number of bills to assist seniors in Connecticut.

Those fortunate enough to remain in their home, often live on a very tight budget which makes it very difficult to afford their bills. One step to assist the elderly pay their bills, and keep them in their homes, is a bill I drafted that specifically amends state statutes to require the Department of Public Utility Control (DPUC) to develop a program to providing assistance to electric and gas ratepayers who earn less than sixty per cent of the state’s median income.

Elderly that live on their own may also require transportation services. Many individuals are still self-sufficient, but can no longer drive or have difficulty using public transportation. Dial-A-Ride is a transportation service designed to help individuals 65 or older, or those permanently disabled, access essential services in their communities. At a time when the General Assembly is seeking to make cuts to our state’s budget, I proposed legislation that will ensure this program is not cut. This legislation would provide necessary funding for Dial-A-Ride at a level equal to or greater than funding designated to the program for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011.

Proper nutrition is also a key concern for our state’s senior population. The Department of Social Services (DSS) has programs in place to support those 60 or older, or disabled, but as our state’s senior population expands so will their needs. Legislation I have put forth requires the General Assembly’s Aging Committee to identify accounts in the state’s General Fund that can be reduced or eliminated, in order to increase funding for nutrition assistance programs supporting seniors.

A plan to encourage “aging in place.” We all know the costs associated with growing old and the stress people go through when forced to leave their homes. As an elder law attorney and state senator, my primary goal is to implement policy that provides a means for Connecticut’s seniors to remain at home and out of nursing homes. To accomplish this, I drafted a bill requiring the Commissioner of Social Services to develop and submit a comprehensive plan to foster a change in Connecticut culture toward aging in place. The Commissioner’s plan would include recommendations for infrastructure and transportation improvements; zoning changes to facilitate home care; enhanced nutrition programs and delivery options; improved fraud and abuse protections; expansion of home medical care options; tax incentives; and incentives for private insurance. By changing the state’s approach to elder care, we can support our seniors as well as their spouses and families.

According to US Census Bureau 2009 estimates, 14 percent of Connecticut’s current citizens are 65 and older, a full percentage point above the national average, and this number is only expected to increase because one-third of the state’s population are baby boomers heading into retirement. Taking steps to bring Connecticut’s programs in line with population growth will benefit families and the state in the long-run. I look forward to developing policy that rebalances the state’s dollars spent on long term care, away from institutional care and to home care. We need good legislation that preserves the dignity of our seniors by allowing them to age in place in their homes and at the same time protects services for those 65 years of age and older.