With the silver age wave gaining momentum in terms of sheer numbers, I have been straining for signs of a real legislative response form Congress. It is in everyone’s best interest that issues regarding adapting older housing and expanding home health care be addressed now. If so many seniors plan to/or have to age in place then real solutions need to start materializing on the horizon. What I find instead are bills that wither on the vine after being introduced.
Here are some of the highlights of the current role call of real laws to help seniors:
To their credit, Senior Angus King and Susan Collins have reintroduced a bill called Senior Home Modification Act ( S913). It proposes: To amend the Older Americans Act of 1965 to establish an initiative, carried out by the Assistant Secretary for Aging, to coordinate Federal efforts and programs for home modifications enabling older individuals to live independently and safely in a home environment, and for other purposes. The fact that they are both form Maine that has the oldest median age population in the country is not coincidental. An earlier version of it died in the last Congress.
Another bill, the Senior Accessible Housing Act (HR 5254) also bit the dust in last year’s Congress. It would have allowed seniors to use part of their own savings tax free to make modification to their homes. The idea was picked up and a petition was circulated by Louis Tenebaum at his website under Homes Renewed.org.
Home updates can be funded by allowing access to $17 trillion in pre-tax retirement savings (e.g.: IRA, 401K/402b/TSP, etc.) held by middle-income Americans. This strategy leverages private resources and requires no new government spending. Funds used for this purpose incur no tax or penalty.
Then there is the program I really got excited about months ago, a pilot project at John Hopkins School of Nursing, CAPABLE (Community Aging in Place – Advancing Better Living for Elders) a research study designed to help seniors live more comfortably and safely in their homes. The research findings will help to determine if services can help older adults maintain their independence longer.
It was funded through Center for Innovation in Medicare/Medicaid for cost savings. The fact that the Center was originally created under the Affordable Care Act also puts it at jeopardy. The CAPABLE pilot under Medicare/ Medicaid had one the most productive pilot projects I have ever found in my search for a practical intervention on a public scale. The staff communicated first with the home owner as what they thought the home needed, then provided a professional assessment and repairs. I am trying to tract down what the status is of any ongoing activity to make this baord base program.
Then I searched the Housing and Urban Development website. It has the new cabinet head name on the masthead, but I can not find any current research money directed to aging in place. While the private sector is still doting on the silver wave hoping for a very profitable return in new tech and concierge style living communities, it will be up to the government to take a comprehensive look at what the range of needs across the board. There is a dire need coming to boost senior transportation, communication and home health care especially in rural communities.
Civic engagement on the part of boomers and seniors is important in creating a local age friendly community. Speaking up and out on the need for real aging in place legislation on a national level has to happen. We need more than wishful thinking. Stay tuned.