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Viewpoint from the Commonwealth

Governor Baker’s Annual Speech and Budget Promote Strong Aging Agenda for Massachusetts

Secretary Alice BonnerSecretary Alice BonnerGovernor Charlie Baker delivered his State of the Commonwealth speech in January, and the next day filed his annual budget with the Legislature. Both actions contained good news for older people in every part of Massachusetts.

Massachusetts has been a leader in the development and delivery of aging services – and LifePath has been a shining example of that here in Western Massachusetts. However, our Commonwealth is at a crossroads. Today, we have more Massachusetts residents over the age of 60 than under the age of 20. This change in demographics offers Massachusetts an opportunity to lead the nation by developing innovative policies and solutions that help our residents age and thrive in the communities where they live, work and volunteer.

Recognizing the many contributions of older people, in April of 2017 the Governor issued an executive order establishing the Council to Address Aging in Massachusetts. The Council is tasked with advising the Administration on policies, community resources, best practices, and informal supports to promote healthy aging in Massachusetts. The Council recently delivered a comprehensive blueprint of initial recommendations based on the first year of its work which you can read here.

Building on that momentum, in this year's State of the Commonwealth speech the Governor announced that Massachusetts has been designated by the AARP as only the second state in the country to join that organization’s Age-Friendly Network. This designation commits our state to a continued path of progress in making Massachusetts more livable and welcoming for older adults and people of all ages.

It is also a great boost to work already underway.  As of 2017, 88 communities across the state have achieved, were working towards or beginning efforts to make their cities and towns Age and Dementia-Friendly.

In addition, the Baker-Polito budget for FY19 includes a $17 million increase for Elders Affairs. This includes a $2.9 million increase in funding that support the work of local Councils on Aging. This will provide more than $16 million to Councils on Aging next year – the highest level of state support ever. The Administration’s budget also includes a $7.4 million increase for the State Home Care Program and a $4.7 million increase for the Community Choices program to help keep older residents with chronic health care needs in their homes for as long as possible. The budget also includes a $2.7 million increase for the Protective Services Program, which receives and investigates reports of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

Taken together, all of this is good news for those of us who want to live, work and age well in Massachusetts. Our Commonwealth is moving towards a more Age-Friendly future, and that is good news for Massachusetts residents of all ages.