Aging in Maine

Posted Wednesday, September 11, 2013 in News

Aging in Maine

by Andi Parkinson

AUGUSTA -- Speaker Mark Eves convened a conference on aging in Maine at the Civic Center on Tuesday. 

The average age of someone in Maine is 47, which is a serious problem, because more one quarter of all Mainers will retire in the next 20 years.  Economics aren't the only problem facing a state with a large aging population.  Maine will also have to confront transportation, health care, skilled nursing home availability and cost, and other issues head on, very soon.

Charles Colgan, from the University of Southern Maine, was the keynote speaker.  He addressed the problem of too few young people supporting too many retirees.

“People assume that if we could just keep our young people here, it would solve the problem,” said Colgan to dozens of people who gathered at the Augusta Civic Center. “There are not half enough of them because not enough young people are born here. We have to get people from other places to move here. We’ve got to get more people in.”

Colgan said that in addition to keeping young people in Maine, the state also has to attract 3,000 new residents per year for the next 20 years to sustain the workforce.

The event Tuesday was the first in four forums designed to find ideas to help with the problems of an aging population. 

“Addressing the impacts of Maine’s aging population is a policy imperative,” said Eves in a prepared statement. “Whether you are among the aging population increasingly needing health care or a family member caring for a parent or an employer looking at a retiring workforce, Maine’s shifting demographics will impact all of us.”

From Eves’ prepared remarks:

Maine has the oldest population in the country, and some of the least accessible services.  Most towns do not have public transporation, for instance, a critical need for those who can no longer drive.

Colgan said the changes he advocates will require a cultural transformation unlike anything that has been seen in American history.

“It requires us, in short, to do all the things that American society and organizations do woefully badly,” he said. “There is a place here for Maine not only to adapt, but lead the world in terms of the ability of society to reform itself to adapt to an older population.”

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