Gov. Janet Mills is moving forward with plans to create a Cabinet-level group to address the needs of Maine’s aging population.

Mills signed an executive order Monday in Portland to create a Cabinet on Aging to bring together the heads of several state agencies so they can coordinate and speed up efforts to help residents age safely and affordably in settings that best serve their needs, her office said.

She announced the plan in February as part of her State of the State address, although it was overshadowed at the time by proposals to send checks to taxpayers to help ease the pain of inflation and to provide two years of free community college tuition to high school students who graduated during the pandemic, from 2020-23.

Maine has the oldest median age in the nation, and Mills’ office said tens of thousands of people are expected to retire in the coming years, increasing demand for age-related services.

“Maine people work hard their entire lives and they deserve to age comfortably in the communities they love,” Mills said in a written statement. “With the establishment of the Cabinet on Aging, we can advance policies across state government that make sure the needs of Maine people are met as they age.”

Mills signed the order at The Cedars in Portland, which provides a spectrum of housing and nursing care for seniors. It recently opened a facility named the Sam L. Cohen Households, which Mills’ office said is a model of senior living that affords residents a “home-like environment, input into daily activities, and state-of-the-art care to preserve their quality of life.”


The Cabinet on Aging consists of commissioners from seven state departments and the director of Maine State Housing Authority. The state departments are health and human services, labor, economic and community development, administrative and financial services, professional and financial regulation, public safety and transportation. The cabinet is co-chaired by the HHS and the labor commissioners and funding for one staff position was included in the Office of Policy Innovation and the Future’s budget, plus an additional $35,000 for communications, supplies and technology.

The cabinet will meet four times a year, beginning in July, to coordinate and advance work on affordable housing and long-term services and supports; financial security and protection against fraud; access to information, broadband, and services; and engagement and employment in Maine’s growing economy.

“The Cabinet on Aging formalizes the coordination across Maine state government that protected older residents during the pandemic,” DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said in a written statement.

Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman said in a written statement that the cabinet will seek ways to employ seniors who are willing and able to work. The group will also continue efforts to address the longstanding health care workforce shortage, she said.

“We continue to hear from older workers who want to rejoin the workforce, but who are experiencing roadblocks,” Fortman said. “We are committed to connecting all workers with rewarding work. The new Cabinet on Aging is one way that we will strengthen the existing coordination of services for seniors, whatever their goals may be – including retirement or employment. We also are committed to ensuring that there is a skilled statewide workforce to provide quality support services for folks to age with dignity in their homes and communities.”

The announcement coincides with a hotly contested election season, in which the Blaine House and every seat in the Legislature are up for grabs.


Former Republican Gov. Paul LePage is seeking an unprecedented third nonconsecutive term in office by campaigning to unseat Mills, a former prosecutor and the first female governor in state history. Beals physician Sam Hunkler is mounting a long-shot bid as an independent and doesn’t plan to spend more than $5,000 for his campaign in a race that is expected to draw millions of dollars in spending.

In response to Mills’ announcement, the Maine Republican Party issued a release Monday highlighting the impacts that inflation are having on fixed-income seniors, as well as the recent closures of nursing homes struggling with workforce shortages. They also said that “beloved nurses have been fired,”  an apparent reference to the administration’s requirement that health care workers be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Maine Republican Party Executive Director Jason Savage described the cabinet as a “fake do-nothing government entity.”

Members of his own party working on aging issues disagree. Sen. Marianne Moore, R-Calais, and Rep. William Tuell, R-East Machias, applauded the announcement in a joint statement with Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, and Rep. Jessica Fay, D-Raymond.

“It is a great leap for our state that older Mainers will be represented in Maine policymaking in a clear, coordinated way,” said the group, which co-chairs the Legislature’s Aging Caucus. “We look forward to partnering with the Governor’s new Cabinet on Aging to uplift the voices and experiences of older Mainers who have so much to contribute to our state.”

Brenda Gallant, the state’s long-term care ombudsman, stressed the need to coordinate efforts to serve older citizens, who she said are the state’s fastest growing population.

“The Cabinet will have the opportunity to build on the work already being done to address the pressing direct-care workforce shortage, affordable housing, and investment in long-term care services,” Gallant said. “We look forward to working closely with Cabinet members to meet the challenges that Maine faces in the years ahead.”

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