House Speaker Mark Eves is scheduled to announce several legislative initiatives Wednesday that would help older Mainers live longer in their own homes and communities.
Eves, D-North Berwick, said Tuesday that he’s developing legislation that aims to increase affordable-housing options, property tax credits and home care services for seniors.
Eves, who is up for re-election in November, said the KeepME Home initiatives are part of a larger package of aging-related bills that would be submitted to the Legislature in January. He hopes to organize a bipartisan “aging caucus” of lawmakers who want to address the many challenges facing the state that has the nation’s oldest population.
“This is just the beginning,” Eves said. “I hope to rally bipartisan support to address a variety of concerns raised at the aging summit we held earlier this year. This is something that shouldn’t be politicized.”
Eves is set to provide additional details about the KeepME Home initiatives at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Creekside Village adult housing complex in Brunswick.
More than 370 Mainers gathered in the state capital in January for the Maine Summit on Aging, hosted by Eves and the Maine Council on Aging. It followed several smaller round-table forums that focused on various challenges facing the state because it has a rapidly aging population.
Maine is the oldest state based on median age (43.5 years) and the second-oldest based on the proportion of people 65 and older (17 percent), according to the U.S. Census. Florida is No. 1 with 18.2 percent.
Maine also has the highest proportion of baby boomers — 29 percent of its 1.3 million residents were born in the period from 1946 to 1964. By 2030, more than 25 percent of Mainers will be 65 or older.
An ongoing Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram investigative series, The Challenge of Our Age, has uncovered existing shortages in senior housing, home care, long-term care and other areas that threaten to cripple the state economically and socially as its senior population grows.
“These numbers must be a call to action for our state leaders,” Eves said. “We must transform how people age in our state so they can live independently in their communities and homes.”
Eves is being challenged in the November election by Todd Prescott, a Republican who lives in South Berwick. Prescott couldn’t be reached immediately for comment on Tuesday.
The KeepME Home initiatives would, in part, call for greater investment in efficient and affordable senior housing in every region of the state, Eves said.
The initiatives also would address factors contributing to a shortage of home care workers, including low Medicaid reimbursement rates, which have been stagnant for a decade.
“The goal is to address the waiting lists that exist now and head off an emerging crisis,” Eves said.
In addition to building a bipartisan caucus on aging issues, Eves also hopes to work closely with Maine’s congressional delegation to help forge change at the national level.
In early September, he plans to travel to Washington, D.C., with several aging summit participants and meet with Maine’s senators and representatives.
“We’d like to share information about what we’ve been doing and (learn whether) there are things happening at the federal level where Maine could be a leader,” Eves said.