“Boomers Mean Business!” That was the title of the first mini-conference held in May, 2006 meant to kick off an initiative called Transform 2010. 2010 is a partnership between the Department of Human Services, the Minnesota Board on Aging, the Department of Health and many other state agencies whose purpose is to prepare Minnesota for the coming age wave of baby boomers and a permanent shift in the age of our state’s population.
That shift will begin in 2011 when the large baby boom generation begins to turn 65. The aging of our society will dominate the demographic landscape for the next 50 years. According to the MN Dept. of Human Services website (http://www.dhs.state.mn.us), “Transform 2010 seeks to heighten the sense of urgency to transform our policies, infrastructures and services, so that Minnesota is prepared for these historic changes. Transform 2010 has developed a framework—a Blueprint for 2010―for what needs to be done across all systems to prepare for the future.”
Since the inaugural meeting in 2006, over 1000 individuals have participated in a series of meetings including county representatives, health and long-term care providers, volunteer organizations, senior citizens and local elected officials. According to the Blueprint (http://edocs.dhs.state.mn.us/lfserver/Legacy/DHS-5059-ENG), participants reviewed issues related to the aging of the state’s population and presented actions that individuals, communities, businesses and government must take to prepare for 2010 and beyond. Working in small groups, they generated over 1,200 “bullets” about issues, ideas and recommendations for the future. This demographic shift has serious implications for future trends including the dominant increase in the over 50 age group, increase diversity of our population and the potential for labor shortages.
The Blueprint summarizes the data that was gathered & the discussions that were held. Topics included are:
Redefining Work and Retirement
Supporting Caregivers of All Ages
Fostering Communities for a Lifetime
Improving Health and Long-Term Care
Maximizing Use of Technology
It then goes on to answer 3 important questions:
Why is this important?
What if we do nothing?
What issues need to be addressed to prepare for 2010?
To put this into perspective, the conclusion of Supporting Caregivers of All Ages is that Minnesota needs to slow the decline of family caregiving by offering eldercare in all workplaces and redesigning services to support family care. This is important because there’s a growing number of individuals who to do not have personal & family resources to help them as they age. Doing nothing could cost U.S. businesses over 17 billion dollars to employers; due to absenteeism, replacing employees & unpaid leave (Source: The MetLife Caregiving Cost Study: Productivity Losses to U.S. Business, July 2006). Issues that need to be addresses include the financial burden for caregivers who must put their career plans on hold, as well as use their own money to pay for items needed by their older relatives but not covered by any insurance.
Because the Blueprint was intended to offer solutions and not just identify problems, it then goes on to identify action steps. Examples of such steps under Supporting Caregivers of All Ages are:
Develop one-stop resource centers for caregivers in local communities and consolidate all caregiver services in each community, to eliminate artificial age or other restrictions.
Broaden the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to include more relatives who can be cared for under the law.
Make all health and aging services more “caregiver-friendly”.
Expand the availability of professionals trained to counsel caregivers.
To ensure the success of the Transform 2010 project, the founding agencies involved are committed to playing a leadership role in moving these concepts forward into fruition. Over 100 presentations have been held to educate Minnesotans on these important concepts with individuals such as Peter Spuit discussing, “Moving Beyond 2010: Is There a Safety Net at the Bottom of the Cliff?” at the Minnesota Gerontological Society Convention on April 29th. In the end, this project is a catalyst for the attention that should be given to state agencies, businesses & organizations who are already working to solve these issues.
Eden Prairie Professionals in Aging is a non-profit organization based in Eden Prairie, a town of 50,000 in the southwestern Twin Cities. Our diverse member organizations are all committed to the welfare of seniors in our community. Our purpose is to provide networking opportunities for individuals who provide services to elderly persons in Eden Prairie by meeting bimonthly for information exchange and problem solving in our field. For more information on EPPIA and a list of resources regarding activities in Eden Prairie, please visit our website at www.edenprairieaging.org.
Submitted by EPPIA Members:
Lisa Schmidtke, Able Deluxe, www.AbleDeluxe.com
Mike Cornelison, www.IHLCaregiver.com/EP
Kris Drew, www.pathfindergcm.com