Alaska Commission on Aging outlines priorities for 2022

Alaska Commission on Aging outlines its priorities for 2022
Published: Feb. 1, 2022 at 1:13 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Commission on Aging, a state-appointed 11-member volunteer panel, met with partners in early December to discuss its priorities for 2022.

The general consensus was that older Alaskans do better when they’re able to stay in their homes and communities, but that the state’s infrastructure to support them is lacking, according to Executive Director Lisa Morley.

Commissioners arrived at four priorities to focus on; The first is ensuring 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. The commission is advocating for a cost of living allowance that will help to provide more resources for senior programs.

According to the commission, inflation rose about 6.5 to 7% in 2021, while funding for senior programs over the past 10 years has gone up only about 10%. Meanwhile, the senior population over the last decade has increased by 51%.

“We have a lot of baby boomers who are getting older and our state resources don’t really support the increasing growth of senior population,” Morley said. “So our number one advocacy priority is to really take a look at the increasing population and inflation, and make those adjustments to our senior programs.”

Those programs include services like transportation to the grocery story or medical appointments, home-delivered meals and adult day programs.

The commission’s second priority is to 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 Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia. One example is access to an assisted living home and its services.

The third priority is to support capital funding for the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation’s Senior Housing Development Fund.

There’s some federal housing programs that provide federal funds, but also ... senior housing is one of the big needs in our state, and so some of those funds come from the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, some of the state funds, and some federal funds so it’s really a blend of funding,” Morley explained. “But we want to see that increased, so there’s more units developed so senior housing is more available statewide.”

The fourth and final priority is to maintain senior benefits like the Senior Benefit Program (formerly known as the Longevity Bonus), heating assistance and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

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