In honor of the five-year anniversary of the Governor’s Council to Address Aging, Governor Charlie Baker, Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders, and Secretary of Elder Affairs Elizabeth Chen joined Council Members and stakeholders at a celebratory meeting to reflect on the strides made to support healthy aging in Massachusetts.
Co-Chaired by Secretary Sudders and philanthropist Eileen Connors, the Governor’s Council to Address Aging was established via Executive Order in April 2017 with the goal of making the Commonwealth the most age-friendly state for people of all ages. Today’s final Council meeting under the Baker-Polito Administration was held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Governor Baker first signed the Executive Order that launched the Council.
“Over the past five years, this Council has expertly guided our administration’s aging policy to ensure older adults are supported in communities across Massachusetts,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We have seen people come together across the Commonwealth to innovate and create a better future for all of us who are aging. As a result of the Council’s hard work and diligence, Massachusetts is now among the most age-friendly states in the nation. As the age-friendly movement continues to grow, I thank the Council members for their continued commitment to the well-being of older Massachusetts residents.”
“Communities across the Commonwealth have benefited and will continue to benefit from the hard work of this council,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “Our administration is committed to supporting residents of all ages and I am grateful to the members of the Governor’s Council to Address Aging for their contributions to the well-being of older residents of Massachusetts.”
“It has been my privilege to serve as a co-chair as we explored the concept of optimal aging,” said Council Co-Chair Eileen Connor. “The Council’s values, goals, and recommendations continue to shape policy, programs, and actions at the statewide, regional, and local levels.”
“As Co-Chair of the Council, I have heard from countless residents across the Commonwealth about what they feel is needed to age in community,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders. “Through these community conversations, we developed a blueprint to make Massachusetts the most age-friendly state, and over the past five years, this Council has worked to make that plan a reality. Together, we are changing and improving what it means to grow older in the Commonwealth.”
“One of the goals of the Executive Office of Elder Affairs and the Governor’s Council to Address Aging has been to embed aging in all policies and across all sectors,” said Secretary of Elder Affairs Elizabeth Chen. “As more sectors think about aging, our culture has shifted, and we now view aging as an asset and an opportunity.”
Over the past five years, the Council listened and learned from older adults and experts in aging, framed the vision and priorities for the work, dove into working sessions on specific areas, released 28 recommendations, and monitored the implementation of those recommendations.
The Council has impacted older adults, communities, organizations, policies, and systems in meaningful ways. Some impacts are felt in the short-term, while other actions are longer term. Massachusetts was the second state to join AARP’s Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities and is the first to become certified as an Age-Friendly Employer.
Specific actions and accomplishments of the Council’s work include:
- Communities and organizations have the tools to make the places we live, work, learn, and play more age- and dementia-friendly
- Over 200 communities across the Commonwealth are engaged in age- and dementia-friendly work, including being designated as Age-Friendly or signing a Dementia Friendly Pledge. Communities have implemented changes to local policies, programs, services, and the built environment to help older people thrive.
- More employers value older workers and employees who are caregivers, including over 100 employers engaged in programs such as the AARP Employer Pledge, Certified Age-Friendly Employer (CAFE), and Massachusetts Caregiver Coalition.
- Communities are taking steps to address equity and aging, with tools such as the Healthy Aging for All Guide, LGBT Aging in Massachusetts Online Training, Age and Dementia Friendly Design Considerations for Physical Infrastructure, and the creation of the Equity in Aging Committee of the Massachusetts Healthy Aging Collaborative.
- Aging is embedded across policies, and culture has shifted to view aging as an asset.
- State policies, programs, and funding have embraced age- and dementia-friendly values including age-friendly design standards for senior housing, age- and dementia-friendly criteria in grant programs, and the creation of Senior Days at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
- Massachusetts is known as an innovation hub for aging with support from partners, such as AGENCY, Babson College FutureLab, GE, MassChallenge HealthTech, and MIT AgeLab. Aging is increasingly viewed as an asset.
- Point32Health Foundation’s investment in Reframing Aging training across sectors has created shared language and values with regard to what it means to grow older.
- People have increased access to the resources needed to plan for and live a 100-year life.
- Access to health care, behavioral health, and supportive services has increased with the expansion of programs including the Medicare Savings Program, Elder Mental Health Outreach Teams (EMHOTs), and Supportive Housing.
- Older adults remain in the workforce longer due to increased opportunities to network, upskill, and work for age-friendly employers.
- Individuals are more likely to identify as caregivers and receive supports with public awareness efforts, support from employers, expansion of services, and new programs including the Caring for the Caregiver webinar series.
- More Massachusetts residents than ever have lower healthcare costs through expansions to the Medicare Savings Program.
- The Baker-Polito Administration was the first administration since the program was established to expand eligibility for low-income seniors. $73 million has been appropriated to expand eligibility for the Medicare Savings Program (MSP) up to 225% of the federal poverty level.
- Income eligibility and asset limits were initially expanded in 2020 to reduce healthcare costs for 40,000 Massachusetts low-income residents, and are currently being expanded further to reduce out-of-pocket health care spending and prescription drug costs for approximately 65,000 low-income seniors and disabled individuals.