“One of my goals as governor will be to provide older Iowans with the resources and support they deserve and need to lead productive, vital and dignified lives and to continue to choose Iowa as their home,” Branstad said during an afternoon news conference at Wesley Acres assisted living center in Des Moines.
Branstad noted that in 2011, the first of the 78,000,000 Baby Boomers will reach age 65. For Iowa, the demographics of aging are even more vivid: already second in the nation for those 85 years and older, by 2030 nearly one in four Iowans will be aged 65 and older – a 47% increase over the numbers of 2010 – and an estimated 105,000 of Iowa’s residents will be 85 and older.
Branstad says Iowa’s aging population provides unique opportunities along with its challenges.
“Iowa’s elders possess a wealth of wisdom, experience, education, skills, and perspective that is an invaluable source of leadership in the labor and volunteer force of Iowa,” said Branstad. “At the same time, Iowa has an obligation to provide safe and affordable housing and services for its older Iowans as we face the need for an additional 10,000 direct care workers by 2016.”
Branstad stated that the ability of older Iowans to remain in their homes or hometowns—whether an urban center or a village—is dependent on the availability of community-based resources and, as importantly, their awareness of those services.
Branstad has three main proposals:
1. Acknowledge and celebrate older Iowans as a treasured asset of our state:
· Promoting public policies and programs that reflect the value of Iowa’s older citizens and the vital role they play in our communities.
· Recognizing the compassion and vitality of older Iowans by encouraging their participation in mentoring and volunteer programs, such as RSVP.
· Promoting community-based programs to encourage local engagement and employment and to give older Iowans the option to remain in their homes and hometowns.
2. Advocate for public policies and the use of public resources that protect older Iowans and empower them to maintain independence and quality of life:
· Conducting a comprehensive evaluation of Iowa’s existing programs and policies intended to address the needs of older Iowans for housing and health services.
· Reinstating the Governor’s Conference on Aging to honor older Iowans and to educate the public on the invaluable asset they are to the state as well as provide training for those who serve the needs of older Iowans.
· Protecting the independence of the Office of the Long Term Care Ombudsman and maintaining the offices of the Resident Advocate Committees.
· Providing public policy support of the Area Agencies on Aging throughout Iowa.
· Re-establishing the Department of Aging as a resource to protect our older Iowans while enhancing their quality of life in Iowa and supporting the agencies who serve them.
3. Give older Iowans the information and resources they need to make informed decisions:
· Working with the Area Agencies on Aging and others to increase awareness of existing programs available to serve older Iowans.
· Supporting the efforts of local communities to educate and inform their residents by making available affordable and user-friendly resources for publicizing services for the aging.
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