We should build communities that allow all ages to thrive and help older Minnesotans live independently and with dignity.
The aging of our population and the effect it will have on our state does not receive nearly enough attention. I have been leading the effort to find creative solutions to the challenges posed by the retirement of the baby boomer generation, before they materialize. In the next quarter-century, Minnesota's over-65 population will increase nearly twice as much as all other age categories combined. This will be an unprecedented change in our workforce and will put new strains on a state budget already facing record deficits. We must act with innovation and urgency.
All of us are better off if older Minnesotans stay in the neighborhoods where they feel comfortable and continue to be actively involved in the community. Strong support for home and community-based services is essential.
The most cost-effective and many times the most desirable way to get needed care to older Minnesotans is with assistance from friends and family. I am the author of the Caregiver's Protection Act, which supports family members who act as caregivers with a tax credit, and expands the current--and highly effective--respite care network in the state. In addition, we should facilitate the use of assistive devices and other low-cost technologies, as well as modifications to homes that will allow people to stay in their homes longer and remain mobile.
Under our current system, too many Minnesotans are having to spend themselves into poverty to get needed long term care services. That dynamic needs to change. The State should work in partnership with the private sector to encourage employees to contribute to retirement and long-term care accounts. We should offer tax incentives for retirement and long-term care savings. And the state must ensure that public pensions remain safe, sufficient, and accountable.
The State should recognize and support Minnesota cities and towns that plan their communities to meet the unique needs of older Minnesotans: robust transit options, integrated living and shopping areas, volunteer opportunities for seniors. In 2008, I passed the first phase of a Community for a Lifetime designation program for cities and towns that meet rigorous "elder friendly" standards. As governor, I will work in partnership with local communities to make that vision a reality.
NEXT GENERATION NURSING HOMES:
At some point in life, many Minnesotans will need more highly-skilled care than can be provided in their homes. Unfortunately, today many nursing homes and assisted living facilities are under overwhelming financial stress. Let's first serve the workers who serve our parents and grandparents in those facilities. We must look at system-wide innovation to move from from long-term nursing home stays to shorter-stay rehab programs, and invest in facilities designed for residents with Alzheimer's and other degenerative diseases.