Rich Jones, the Bell's director of policy and research, testified Monday in favor of Senate Bill 14-98, which will clarify language concerning crimes against senior citizens.
This bill contains changes requested by several district attorneys, based on their experience in implementing landmark legislation passed last session (SB13-111). This year's bill will help law enforcement officials in reducing elder abuse.
Security for seniors in Colorado is an area of particular interest to the Bell. We have long advocated for policies to help Coloradans accumulate and retain assets. In some cases, this involves protecting consumers from predatory loans; in others, it means advocating for policies to provide retirement security for more Coloradans.
Our concerns are based on a large demographic shift that is bearing down on Colorado. This shift poses a number of policy challenges, including how to effectively provide for the long-term-care needs of the growing number of Colorado seniors.
Colorado is facing a dramatic increase in the number of residents aged 65 and over. The State Demography Office projects that the state's population aged 65 and over will increase by 61 percent, or 342,000, from 2010 to 2020. The large number of baby boomers currently living in Colorado will drive most of this growth.
Research shows that 70 percent of Americans who reach age 65 will need some form of long-term care, with about 20 percent of them requiring the care for five years or longer. Providing this care will put a significant strain on seniors, their families and, for those who qualify for Medicaid, the state budget.
This unprecedented demographic shift, along with the increasing demand for long-term care, will also expand the opportunity for various forms of elder abuse.
We believe that it is better and less expensive for seniors, their families and the state budget if more of them can get long-term care at home. An important aspect of keeping seniors in their homes longer is to ensure that policies are in place to protect them from physical, financial and emotional abuse.
Requiring those who regularly come in contact with seniors to report suspected abuse and creating processes for investigating and prosecuting abuse should help reduce the number of at-risk elders who are abused. This should give seniors and their families more certainty that they are safe to stay in their homes.
We support SB14-98 because it will improve enforcement of statutes prohibiting abuse of at-risk elders.
The Senate Judiciary Committee gave its unanimous support to the bill, and it now goes to the full Senate.