To change the trajectory of aging means imagining and launching innovative approaches to accomplish lofty goals. Partnerships such as those established with UMB will help attain those goals.
Maryland’s steady older adult population growth will demand unprecedented change in how we think about information, programs, and services to meet their needs now and into the future. Eleven years ago, the baby boom generation of people born from 1946 to 1964 began to turn 65. As this large cohort ages, Maryland will continue to see growth in both the number of older adults and their share of the total population.
Advances in medicine and longer life expectancy will sustain the growth population patterns. By 2030, Maryland is projected to have nearly 1.7 million individuals who are 60 and older. Health promotion activities, stakeholder partnerships in health care, and innovative collaboration with academia, private industry, and other nongovernmental organizations are critical to stem the growing need for increased home and community long-term services and supports throughout Maryland. Communities now and into the future must reflect a balance of strengths and opportunities that recognizes and celebrates the needs of all of its residents.
Studies around the country continue to show one dramatic and clear result — older adults want to remain in their communities as they age. An AARP study conducted in 2021 reveals how older adults want to live. The study confirms that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, older adults still prefer to stay in their communities as they age. It also reveals that the number of households headed by people 65 and older is expected to grow from 34 million to 48 million in the next two decades. A recent study by the Pew Foundation found that 27 percent of adults 60 and older live alone in the United States, compared with 16 percent of adults in the 130 counties and territories studied.
“Change the Trajectory of Aging” is the new vision of the Maryland Department of Aging’s (MDoA) four-year state plan on aging. To change the trajectory of aging means imagining and launching innovative approaches to accomplish the lofty goal of reducing unnecessary advancement of older adults into higher levels of care.
For the past six years, MDoA has focused on developing innovations such as opt-in daily free wellness telephone checks, “Community for Life” service navigators, immediate and free access to durable medical equipment for all, and partnerships with community restaurants to bring exciting meals into the homes of older adults. The department continues to focus on supports geared toward preventing unnecessary emergency room visits, transitioning residents back into the community from nursing homes, avoiding unnecessary dependence on the state Medicaid system, increasing equity by offering diverse food options in food deprived communities, ensuring access to information, and intensifying the focus on preventive health promotion to avoid costly and unwanted institutionalization for older adults.
A dynamic partnership between the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and MDoA is underway and taking bold steps to produce aging-informed leaders of tomorrow. The Innovations in Aging Graduate Fellows Program is underway with professional students representing the University of Maryland schools of medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and social work. These fellows received stipends supported by MDoA and the University of Maryland Graduate School’s Geriatrics and Gerontology Education and Research (GGEAR) Program to study isolation of older adults in their homes and communities and begin uncovering innovative approaches to addressing the implications of isolation.
“Our department believes that the visionary work of UMB through its Age-Friendly University designation will make a difference in preparing graduates to meet the challenges older adults face in communities” said MDoA Secretary Rona E. Kramer, JD.
Together, UMB and MDoA are committed to being more intentional and systematic in collaborative works to strengthen our supports for older adults in their communities through their work with the UMB Age-Friendly University Steering Committee.
Across the state, the Age-Friendly movement is building momentum and taking hold. Currently six of MDoA’s local network of 19 Area Agencies on Aging, which develop and provide aging services and supports for their local jurisdictions, are seeking age-friendly designations for their counties. And a growing number are beginning to explore the dementia-friendly designation in counties to become more aware of the complex dynamics that define communities now and into the future.
To learn more about MDoA and its initiatives, or to read the Maryland State Plan on Aging, please visit aging.maryland.gov.
To learn more about UMB’s Age-Friendly University initiatives or the Innovations in Aging Graduate Fellowship Program, please contact Diane Martin, PhD, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bernice Hutchinson is the deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Aging.
Disclaimer: Elm Voices & Opinions articles reflect the thoughts or opinions of their individual authors, and may not represent the thoughts or values of UMB as an institution.