Alaska Commission on Aging summit affirms priorities

The Alaska Commission on Aging met with partners December 8 for a day long summit to discuss priorities for the upcoming year. Denali Daniels facilitated the meeting with Jordan Marshall providing support as well as his expertise about the ‘lay of the land’ for the upcoming legislative session.

The morning session was dedicated to hearing from partners, but the main theme was consistent: Older Alaskans do better when they are able to remain in their homes and communities, but Alaska’s infrastructure to support seniors is lacking.

The need for increased transportation and senior housing was at the top of the list, followed by the need for more trained workforce and support for caregivers and individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia (ADRD).

Many seniors receive home delivered meals, transportation and other supports paid for with a combination of state and Older Americans Act funds, but these grants have not kept up with inflation or the increasing senior population.

During the afternoon session, commissioners considered information they heard and narrowed their focus to four top priorities.

1) Ensure older Alaskans have access to critical services to meet their basic needs by matching the increasing senior population and cost of living with increased resources. Core services such as home delivered meals, transportation, health promotion, caregiver support and other supportive services are proven to allow seniors to remain in their homes longer. Better access will require increasing knowledge about where to get help for senior services; ensuring infrastructure funds for transportation are used; enhancing transportation options for seniors; ensuring infrastructure funds for broadband reach rural Alaska and include training for seniors.

2) Support Home and Community Based Medicaid Waiver and Community First Choice programs to increase access to care coordination and address the needs of individuals with ADRD

3) Support capital funding for Alaska Housing Finance Corp.’s Senior Housing Development fund.

4) Maintain senior benefits

Although these priorities are not new, the commission wants to work with state agencies and legislators throughout the year and not just during the legislative session to move these initiatives forward.