Denise Daniello, executive director of the Alaska Commission on Aging, explained, "By 2025 the population of older Alaskans, age 60 and older, will more than double."
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"In fact, Alaska has the second fastest growing senior population in the country," she said. The Alaska Commission on Aging, part of Alaska's Department of Health and Social Services, is leading the way to prepare our state for the coming increase of senior citizens.
Ms. Daniello envisions the ACOA serving three roles: 1) to promote awareness about senior needs and concerns; 2) to plan services for older Alaskans and their unpaid caregivers and 3) to advocate for the needs of older Alaskans. "Considering that people are living longer and that baby boomers are beginning to age into senior citizens, the ACOA is now more important than ever."
The Alaska Commission on Aging is made up of eleven Commissioners from around the state who are appointed by the Governor. The board, which meets four times a year, will meet in Juneau Feb. 14-16 at Centennial Hall (Hammond Room). The public is invited to attend all or part of the meeting. The meeting agenda is available on the ACOA Web site at www.hss.state.ak.us/acoa or by calling 465-3250. People are invited to come and present any concerns pertaining to senior issues during public comment period, from 2:45 to 3:30 p.m. Feb. 16. During the board meeting, the proposed State Plan on Aging for 2007-2011 will be presented for the first time.
Also during their visit to Juneau, the appointed Commissioners will meet with state legislators to focus on four main issues: 1) the "Keep the Elders Home" initiative to increase funding for State grants to provide services in homes and communities to help seniors maintain their independence; 2) affordable and accessible health care, to include issues involving Medicaid funding and Medicare eligibility; 3) financial safety nets, such as support for the Senior Care and Longevity Bonus programs; and 4) increasing the availability of affordable, safe and accessible housing. The ACOA will coordinate its advocacy efforts with other groups such as the AARP and Agenet.
Throughout the legislative session, the ACOA will conduct statewide teleconferences to raise awareness of senior issues, track legislative bills of significance to older Alaskans, and share legislative information and strategy. The next meeting will take place from 9:30-11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 8 in the third floor conference room (Room 322) of the Community Building located at 150 Third Street in Juneau. This is also the building where Denise and the ACOA staff have their offices.
A new project of the Alaska Commission on Aging is the Alaska Aging Advocacy Network. "This is a grassroots coalition effort to advocate for senior issues," explains Ms. Daniello. The Network, which began last June, so far includes 100 members and welcomes caregivers, service providers, consumers of services and anyone interested in the needs of aging Alaskans. The ACOA is developing regional networks throughout the state so that regional volunteers can raise awareness of statewide issues at the local level while local advocates communicate their needs with the larger statewide group. More information about the Network, including how to join and receive the political advocacy toolkit, can be obtained through the ACOA web site or by calling 465-3250.
Marianne Mills is the Program Director of Southeast Senior Services (SESS) which offers home and community-based services for older Alaskans throughout the region. SESS is a part of Catholic Community Service and assists all persons regardless of their faith.