Senator Hoffman: We are not getting any younger, Minnesota

More than 60,000 Minnesotans turn 65 this year, next year, and every year through 2030. In just three years, there will be one million seniors living in Minnesota. In Anoka County, the senior population growth rate is 4.3 times greater than other adult population growth.

This huge population shift will change the landscape of our state. It’s time to think about how we can stay ahead of the curve. There are three main areas of our economy and society that will be most affected by our aging population growth: health care, workforce, and economic struggles.

Health care resources

At least 70 percent of the Minnesotans who turned 65 in 2017 are expected to use long-term care services at some point. As our senior population grows, so does the number of people dealing with dementia, heart disease, and other age-related conditions. Our aging population presents a growing challenge for government, families, and health service providers. If we don’t get ahead of rising health care costs, taking care of our aging population will take more out of every state’s government resources and economy.

This could squeeze virtually every area of our state budgets from education to transportation funding. We need to be aggressive to make health care more affordable to citizens – especially our aging populations — and less of a burden on the government. We need to find a stable and dedicated funding source to deal with these rising costs. I am adamant that we protect and expand the systems we currently have that work and make the safety and care of our seniors a priority during this huge population shift.

Workforce

The demand for caregivers to support our rapidly growing senior population is going to increase dramatically over the next decade. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit and retain professional caregivers to meet the growing need. We must make sure these caregivers are paid a wage that not only supports their families, but draws people into the profession to meet our growing workforce needs.

Economic struggles

Most seniors are interested in staying in their own homes for as long as possible. Although this option can cause some difficulties, keeping seniors at home may be a more cost-effective way to support senior housing. Because Medicaid is the primary funder of nursing home care, Minnesota also has a financial incentive to keep older persons in their own home. We need to expand home care programs, find ways to encourage and incentivize more people to become home health aides, expand services for seniors to live independently in their homes, and fund low-cost transportation options for seniors so they can get to the store, doctor, and places of worship.

As our older population leads to a shrinking and aging workforce and puts increased pressure on health care and retirement, we must start difficult conversations that look at creative solutions to deal with the changes in our landscape.

To contact me with your ideas and feedback, you can reach me by phone at 651-296-4154 or by email at sen.john.hoffman@senate.mn. You can also mail letters or pay me a visit in the Minnesota Senate Building, Room 2231, right across the street from the Capitol.

Senator John Hoffman
John Hoffman represents District 36, which includes portions of Anoka and Hennepin County.

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