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Delaware Senate Democrats

Aging-in-Place Working Group Releases Recommendations

May 11, 2022

DOVER – A legislative working group tasked with developing policy recommendations that will improve home- and community-based services for older Delawareans recently released nearly a dozen recommendations to help the First State’s growing senior population remain in their homes comfortably, safely and independently for as long as possible.

The Aging-in-Place Working Group’s recommendations include establishing standing legislative committees on aging; creating a community navigator program; expanding access to home caregiver training; bolstering recruitment and retention of the healthcare workforce and more.

“Nearly 1 in 5 Delawareans are over the age of 65 now, and our senior population is only expected to grow over the next 30 years,” said Sen. Spiros Mantzavinos, D-Elsmere, chair of the Aging-In-Place Working Group.

“Given that the vast majority of seniors want to stay in their homes as they age, I created the Aging-In-Place Working Group to take a hard look at what the State of Delaware can do to help make that possible,” he said. “This is about more than sound public policy. Creating sustainable solutions to support our aging population is a deeply personal issue for me and an issue thousands of families across our state are forced to grapple with each year. I want to thank each and every member of the working group for sharing their expertise and perspectives as we developed some key next steps to help lift up the mental, emotional, and financial welfare of our older loved ones.”

The Delaware General Assembly created the 16-member Aging-In-Place Working Group last spring with the bi-partisan passage of Senate Concurrent Resolution 44. Made up of legislators from both sides of the aisle, agency representatives, nonprofit organizations and service providers, the Working Group met for eight months and heard testimony from researchers, guest speakers, various state agencies and seniors experiencing challenges with aging in place.

The Working Group recorded widespread concerns that existing services are not utilized to their full potential, mostly likely due to a lack of information about those services, pervasive stigmas around issues related to aging and a potential lack of trust and cultural competency. Through its examinations, the Working Group endeavored to create proposals that addressed inequities and service gaps across race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status and geographic location, as well as bolstered professional and family caregivers.

In a 26-page report submitted to the General Assembly last, the Working Group made the following recommendations:

  • Establish standing legislative committees on aging;
  • Create a community navigator program to help seniors and various volunteer networks better access services;
  • Implement wide-ranging and regular public awareness campaigns to help spread the word about available services for seniors and caregivers;
  • Provide additional funding and support for existing programs and initiatives, such as those that address food insecurity and provide specialized memory care;
  • Promote a more proactive approach to health and planning for aging;
  • Investigate potential racial disparities that may hamper health equity;
  • Reframe aging and combat stigmas;
  • Continue to readjust reimbursement rates for service providers;
  • Take active steps to bolster recruitment and retention of the healthcare workforce;
  • Invest in training and respite programs for caregivers;
  • Increase protections against exploitation and abuse for seniors

While most of its recommendations focus on improving the infrastructure of home- and community-based services available to older Delawareans, the Working Group also called for further investigation into additional barriers that prevent seniors from remaining in their homes, including housing accessibility and affordability, the high cost of care, social isolation and financial demands placed on caregivers.

“We have to recognize the desires of Delaware residents who want to remain in their homes as they age and provide the services and protections they need,” said Rep. Krista Griffith, D-Fairfax, the working group co-chair. “As the former head of the Department of Justice’s Senior Protection Initiative, I saw firsthand the exploitation of seniors and the need to address this and other issues. The recommendations from this working group will serve as a roadmap for the state to help our aging population live securely and safely in the homes and communities where they’ve put down roots. I’m looking forward to the next steps that we take in putting this report into practice.”