Testimony in support of LD 909 “An Act To Help Older Adults Age in Place through Comprehensive Planning”

Testimony of Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine
in support of LD 909
“An Act To Help Older Adults Age in Place through Comprehensive Planning”
April 6, 2015

Senator Whittemore, Representative Martin and members of the Joint Standing Committee on State and Local Government, my name is Nancy Smith and I am the Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine. I regret that I cannot attend this hearing today.

We are a statewide non-partisan, non-profit organization working to improve Maine's economy, protect its distinctive character and communities, and enhance our state's quality places. We believe this bill makes headway in achieving these objectives.

You may be familiar with the term “aging in place.” At the very least, you likely recognize its meaning, based on your own experience with family members, friends, and yes, each of us as individuals looking for places where, to quote the bill, we can actively age in place in communities that recognize the capabilities, resources and needs of older adults, with plans to meet the needs of older adults in flexible ways that support healthy and active aging across a person's lifespan, promotes the inclusion and contributions of older adults in all areas of community life, respects the self-determination and independence of older adults and protects those older adults who are most vulnerable.

There are statistics that outline the significance of this issue for Maine. As residents age and seniors become a greater percentage of our population, this very personal issue becomes the foundation of significant public policy concerns. With this bill, we are incorporating the policy dynamics of an aging population into the existing comprehensive planning process for Maine communities. By highlighting the goal of creating more aging-friendly communities, we can help Mainers plan for change and growth in their own hometowns. We all benefit when this happens.

There is a bit of good news too, as the committee considers this bill. Planning for our aging residents has additional benefits. It turns out that the quality of life interests for those facing or enjoying retirement are quite similar to the interests of the younger generations just beginning their working lives. The Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers, Millennials and GenX’ers all want communities which provide interesting and safe Main Streets, access to scenic and productive natural areas and choices in housing, transportation and more.

This bill isn’t about prioritizing elders over the working Mainers, it is about deliberately considering the needs of all Mainers, from 8 to 80 and beyond, in community planning.