New Action Plan on Aging Strengthens Economic Opportunity

If we fail to take action on a plan for aging, we risk having to make difficult choices in the future – choices that could stifle opportunity for millions of Coloradans.

Colorado should act now to meet critical goals for 2030 that, if reached, will ensure the success of “older Coloradans and their families by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, providing livable communities, and protecting the most vulnerable populations.” These goals, and the recommendations that will help achieve them, were released today by the Strategic Action Planning Group on Aging (SAPGA).

SAPGA’s action plan highlights the clear and growing need for investments in aging-related programs. It also advocates for improved coordination of and greater efficiency within existing programs that work well. Colorado’s policymakers have already shown bipartisan leadership by creating SAPGA to lay out a path forward. Now we have a path emerging. If we fail to prepare, or delay taking action, we risk having to make more difficult choices in the future – choices that could be ineffective and costly to Colorado taxpayers.

The recommendations strongly align with the Bell Policy Center’s research demonstrating investments along the cycle of opportunity result in a stronger economic future for all Coloradans.

SAPGA’s recommendations span a range of topics that are crucial to the well-being, economic security, and prosperity of older adults, a demographic that will comprise a historically large proportion of our population in the next fifteen years and beyond.

Specifically, SAPGA asks state leaders to:

  • Create a permanent, office or high-level position within the executive branch to coordinate and oversee Colorado’s work on aging issues.
  • Develop a comprehensive accounting of all state expenditures related to aging as a tool to help policymakers plan and prioritize at the state level.
  • Commit, through existing state programs, partnerships, and resources, to protect older Coloradans from abuse, fraud, neglect, and exploitation — and ensure all can age with dignity in the Centennial State.
  • Empower and support caregivers as they work to assist aging parents, family, friends, and neighbors.
  • Bolster Coloradans’ ability to save for and support themselves in retirement.
  • Implement strategies to ensure Colorado has a workforce to sustain the comprehensive needs of aging Coloradans; and,
  • Support local communities’ efforts to adapt to aging Coloradans’ needs, including transportation networks and building design.

In addition to helping individual Coloradans, the recommendations aim at softening the fiscal impact that our changing demographic presents to state and local governments. Research conducted for SAPGA by the Colorado Futures Center (CFC) found that the increasing number of older adults will result in “modest” reductions in state and local revenues while at the same time placing an increased pressure on state expenditures. This pressure will be most pronounced in Medicaid. CFC found that “age-related Medicaid expenditures will grow to 21.7 percent of total expenditures in 2030.” SAPGA recommends state government create a leadership position to coordinate and oversee Colorado’s work on aging issues and create a comprehensive budget to create efficiencies and prioritize services, in part to address this fiscal strain.

The Bell is committed to being an advocate and vocal supporter of several of SAPGA’s recommendations, including:

Retirement security

The General Assembly should “create a public-private partnership to design and offer a workplace retirement savings plan for employees who do not currently have access to one.” The Colorado Secure Savings Plan, championed by the Bell, is an example of how the state could accomplish this.

Consumer protections

Both branches of government should reinforce existing state and federal efforts that protect Colorado families and seniors from predatory financial practices. This includes supporting the U.S. Department of Labor fiduciary rule that protects workers from excess fees and charges on retirement investments. They should also continue to promote Senior$afe, a Colorado program that wards against financial fraud and abuse. Predatory lending practices strip wealth from those who can least afford it. The Bell has vigorously defended Coloradans from these tactics and will continue to actively fight against them.

Workforce development

Building on the efforts of the Colorado Workforce Development Council, the state should hone in on developing career pathways for professionals who will support the state’s aging population. Older workers themselves should have access to employment training.

Caregiver support

The General Assembly and the governor should “establish family leave policies that set standards for compensating employees for caring for aging family members,” create cross-sector partnerships to promote best practices in the workplace and fully fund existing efforts to increase the prevalence of and access to respite care.

The Planning Group’s recommendations are the result of more than a year’s worth of research, debate, and committee work. Its membership, appointed by the governor, hail from communities across Colorado and a diverse array of businesses, agencies, and organizations supporting and working with older Coloradans.

SAPGA’s work is far from done. Per its legislative charge, it will continue to meet, learn, and update its strategic plan in 2018 and 2020. The action plan states that SAPGA’s future focus will include exploring emerging technologies that can support aging Coloradans, examining aging in the justice system, improving access to health care and wellness programs, and exploring partnerships with the private sector.

With this initial plan, SAPGA has given us concrete ideas that build opportunity for Coloradans. It’s up to us to move from recommendations to action. The Bell stands at the ready to implement a plan for aging.

To learn more about the Planning Group, to read research it conducted, or to attend upcoming meetings, visit https://www.colorado.gov/agingstrategy.

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