Alaska senior services network urges legislative support

Editor’s note: AGEnet President Marianne Mills testified to the Alaska State Senate Finance Committee in Juneau on Feb. 20. Here is the text of her testimony.

My name is Marianne Mills and I am the president of AGEnet, Alaska’s association of senior service providers. AGEnet stands for Alaska Geriatric Exchange Network, primarily made up of private non-profit organizations founded in Alaska.

AGEnet’s goal is to help older Alaskans age in place, supporting them to live safely in their own homes and communities for as long as possible and avoid costly institutional care, such as hospitals and nursing homes. AGEnet strives to involve senior service providers in every area of the state so that, statewide, older Alaskans receive the local, community-based services they need.

Today, on behalf of AGEnet, I urge you maintain the current FY24 funding level for Senior Community Grants. Offered through the Alaska Division of Senior and Disabilities Services, community-based services made possible by these grants include nutritious meals with daily safety checks, transportation, exercise classes, and light-housekeeping. There are also services to help older Alaskans with disabilities, such as adult day services, assistance with activities of daily living such as bathing or dressing, and counseling or respite services for their unpaid family caregivers to help them continue to care for their loved ones at home.

Maintaining the current level of funding requires adding $2.7 million in general funds, without which services to older Alaskans throughout the state will decline significantly, risking their ability to live independently. With Alaska having the fastest growing senior population in the United States, helping them age in their own homes makes economic sense. Last year, nearly 20,000 older Alaskans benefited from senior community grants at a cost of only $691 per year per client. In contrast, only 1,152 patients were served in Alaska nursing homes at a cost of $148,101 per year per person.

Also, since the population of Alaska seniors age 75 and older increased 5% last year, with more vulnerable seniors to serve, AGEnet members urge you to support an additional $998,231 for a 5% increase in SDS Community Based Grants for Fiscal Year 2025.

Community grants awarded by the Alaska Division of Senior and Disabilities Services help Alaska’s seniors to age in place. These grants offer a winning solution to our aging population. Older Alaskans prefer to stay in their own homes while these grants offer the least costly type of care.

Most of our member agencies depend on grants to pay for staff and other expenses associated with senior services. The Alaska Senior and Disabilities Senior Community Grants that are critical to helping local seniors remain safe in their own homes and communities include the following:

Nutrition, Transportation and Support

Adult Day

Senior In-Home

Family Caregiver Support

Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

ADRD (Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias)

Medicare Counseling and Outreach

Center for Independent Living grants

Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC)

Thank you for the opportunity to communicate our requests and explain the importance of SDS Community Grants. For more information, please contact me at 907-723-0226.