Missouri Governor wants Master Plan on Aging to improve policies and programs for rapidly-growing senior population

Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 7:04 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Increasing the quality of life for those 60 and older is the goal of an executive order recently signed by Missouri Governor Mike Parson.

According to a news release by the governor’s office, Executive Order 23-01 establishes a Master Plan on Aging to help reduce age and disability discrimination, eliminate barriers to safe and healthy aging and help Missourians to age with dignity.

“Older Missourians have worked hard, paid their dues, and helped teach and guide the next generations of Missourians,” Parson said. “We want to ensure they are able to enjoy their golden years with dignity and respect. That is why we are proposing a Master Plan for Aging. Through this plan, we will develop a 10-year framework that provides a guiding vision for policies and programs to support our senior communities.”

The Department of Health and Senior Services, with the assistance of a new Advisory Council, is tasked with finalizing the Master Plan on Aging by December 31, 2025, and releasing a public report.

A lot of senior citizens gather daily at Springfield’s South Side Senior Center to eat meals and take part in a number of activities ranging from bingo to line dancing. And they represent a rapidly-growing demographic of those age 60 and older.

“By 2030, they will outnumber children for the first time in our nation’s history,” pointed out Mindy Ulstad, DHSS Senior Programs Chief in Jefferson City. “And what we know is there are not enough services for the older adults we have now. So we really need to start planning and getting services and programs in place to start helping people as they’re aging. We want them to be safe, healthy, and independent, and that’s what we’re referring to when we say ‘aging with dignity.’”

So what will the DHSS be doing during the two-year process?

“One of the first things we want to do is do a scan of the current programs and services being provided across the state and then do a needs assessment with the local hospitals and community action agencies,” Ulstad said. “We want to find out where our needs are, where the gaps are and where we overlap in terms of the services provided. We also plan on doing 12 town hall meetings across the state next year. And we want to not only hear from those age 60-or-older, but also from adults with disabilities and people who are coming into aging.”

“I think healthcare is number one,” said Springfield South Side Senior Center visitor Dennis Mooneyham when we asked him what his chief concern was as a senior adult.

“They need to leave our Medicare and Social Security alone,” added Peggy Mullins, another senior center patron. “Old people can’t live without those. And they need to quick taxing our Social Security.”

Healthcare and the ability to pay for that care is one of the seven major subjects that subcommittees putting together the Master Plan will be looking at and it’s certainly on the minds of most seniors.

Mooneyham and Mullins pointed out that it’s hard these days just to find someone to give you medical care.

“Going to the doctor? It’s difficult just getting an appointment,” Mullins said. “They put them off for months when it might be something you need taken care of right now.”

“If you have to go to the emergency room, God bless you,” Mooneyham added. “Last weekend a friend of mine had to take his wife there and they left after nine hours without being taken care of.”

Among the other seven areas, the subcommittees will be looking at are long-term care services and family caregivers.

“We know there are not enough family caregivers and those there are heavily burdened,” Ulstad said.

Other subcommittees will look at employment and volunteerism as well as safety and security.

“Safety and security will focus on abuse and neglect, financial planning, and making sure they’re avoiding scams,” Ulstad explained.

And two other critical areas to be looked at are transportation and affordable housing. As Ulstad pointed out that many different agencies work in those areas but don’t always coordinate their efforts.

“Transportation and housing are so siloed (isolated from others) right now,” she said. “We have all these departments who are working on it in a different way. But working together, we can really save money and impact more people.”

What happens after the Master Plan on Aging is completed and delivered to the state government?

“We don’t have that worked out yet,” answered Ulstad. “We hope to continue to check in quarterly or bi-annually to see if we’re making progress on whatever the plan ends up being.”

And since this is the Show-Me State, there’s no doubt many people will be reserving their judgments on how effective the Master Plan on Aging is until they see some results.

“I’m skeptical,” Mooneyham admitted. “My first thought when I heard about it was how many years will it take before we start to see it come to fruition.”

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