Seniors speak up as Maine’s legislative session winds down

On Monday night, hundreds of Mainers from across the state joined a telephone town hall with Nora Super, Executive Director at the White House Conference on Aging, and Mark Eves, Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, to discuss issues important to seniors and Eves’ own “Keep ME Home” legislative initiative to help Mainers age with dignity and at home.

“As the oldest state in the nation, Maine has an opportunity to demonstrate bipartisan leadership in addressing our aging challenges,” said Eves, whose bill to boost pay for workers who provide direct care to the elderly and Mainers with disabilities won bipartisan support last week. “One of the most important steps we can take is ensuring that we have a workforce to help care for our seniors so they can remain in their homes and live independently for as long as possible. We must do right by our seniors and those who care for them.”

Nora Super - Executive Director of the White House Council on Aging

Nora Super – Executive Director of the White House Council on Aging

The town hall was held as the White House prepares for their annual Conference on Aging, which seeks to identify and advance actions to improve the quality of life of older Americans.  Super expressed gratitude at being able to hear directly from Mainers about the challenges of aging.

“I often say I’m focusing on three Cs: conversation, celebration and change,” said Super. “Conversation is what we’re doing tonight, listening and learning from each other, giving me the opportunity to hear from you all in Maine about the issues that are most important. It’s also a time to celebrate older Americans and all they have and continue to contribute to our communities. With change, we’re looking ahead at how we can improve these programs and looking at interesting work that is happening in states like Maine as a way to move forward.”

Topics of discussion included senior housing, long-term care, transportation and health issues and whether innovations in assisted living can be brought to Maine.

One participant asked about news reports broadcast that night of a compromise between Democrats in the Maine House and Republicans in the Senate, including a potential constitutional amendment to make it more difficult to increase state income taxes.

“In the future how will there ever be funds available to provide for our needy elderly and other needy people in the state as well as to provide funds for any other worthwhile program?” asked Lawrence from Auburn.

“Many of the things we’re talking about tonight are represented in the state budget, whether it’s drugs for the elderly or making sure that seniors can live independently in their homes. What you’ve heard about a framework to get a two-thirds vote out of the Senate and the House, that is part of the mix,” said Eves. “We are trying to figure out a way to, first of all, to fund the programs that are fundamental to our values and are things that we believe in. The dilemma and the place that we’re at approaching July 1 and the prospect of a state shutdown, we certainly do not want that and we’re trying to find a way forward that will help us make sure that state government stays funded and these programs that we care about.”

Listen to the entire town hall with the embedded player above. Phot0 Credit: Office of the Speaker

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