The topic of this week’s blog is a bit old, but it’s definitely worth mentioning — and my excuse for not writing about it earlier is simple: This blog wasn’t even created when the event happened.
The event? The Maine Summit on Aging, held on Jan. 17 at the Augusta Civic Center; organized by Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging (MAAAA) executive director Jessica Maurer (LinkedIn); hosted by Maine House Speaker Mark Eves (D-N. Berwick) (Twitter) and the Maine Council on Aging (LinkedIn); and funded by the John T. Gorman Foundation of Portland.
Two articles, from Maine’s Kennebec Journal and MPBN, provide a pretty good rundown of how the summit went, and even The Boston Globe ran an AP writeup online, which highlights main topics, but here’s a quick overview of ideas conjured up through discussion during the Jan. 17 summit:
- Incorporation of seniors into the workplace (and being friendly about it).
- Promotion of home-sharing, where seniors live together to “embrace interdependence to have continued independence,” as said by Joan MacCracken, retired pediatrician and author of ‘The Winter House,’ a novel that tells the story of an elderly woman who finds an alternative to living alone on the coast of Maine.
- Transition of would-be retirees into mentors, like massive construction company Cianbro.
- Creation of “age-friendly communities” (e.g., low property taxes and rent, walkable sidewalks and social opportunities).
- Accommodation of the elderly through the changing of local zoning and ordinances.
All these points, proposed by some of the state’s leading researchers on the aging phenomenon that’s begun to “plague” the state, have been brought about by these three striking demographic characteristics:
- Maine is the oldest state based on median age (43.5 years)
- Maine is the second-oldest based on proportion of people 65 and older (17%)
- Maine has the highest proportion of baby boomers [born from 1946-’64] (29%)
As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, the current trend of the state toward fixing this aging problem is really focusing on how the state can use its old population in order to keep the economy afloat by promoting certain things and incorporating seniors into certain things, but there’s really no rhyme or reason to these theories. In the most basic form, yes — make use of what you have most of — but to beat around the dead bush, most seniors are biologically unable to have children, and once they croak, children and youth are the only ones who can “take there place” in both life and demographic census surveys.
Because there’s no quick solution in sight, this summit does prove something worth mentioning: Discussion and awareness of a problem is the first big step. Even if we’re not heading in the right direction, the recognition of a drawback and the initiation of solution conversation is key. That’s why this summit was a great idea, so kudos to those who organized it.
— Liam Nee