We follow up on the new year-long Union Leader series about aging in New Hampshire. The Granite State is now the second-oldest state in the nation, and the aging population will have a huge impact on the economy. Many say the state is not ready to meet the needs of our growing senior population when it comes to transportation, housing, and health care.
- Dr. Stephen Bartels - Professor of Psychiatry, and Director of Centers for Health & Aging at Dartmouth.
- Gretchen Grosky - Health & Aging reporter for the Union Leader, who's working on a series called "Silver Linings, Issues of Aging in New Hampshire."
- Steve Norton - Executive director of the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies.
New Hampshire is not yet prepared to face the issues caused by an aging population, says Steve Norton :
On the ground level, communities have a two- or three- or four-year planning perspective, and when you think about how communities think about their ten-year plans, they’re not adjusting quite yet to the reality of how steep an increase we’re going to see in an aging population. . .State government is not yet prepared for the potential public resource implications of an aging population. The population over age 85, as Dr. Bartels mentioned, is increasingly reliant on public services and that will be a financial drain on the state as well as local communities, particularly the counties.
Dr. Bartels thinks conventional healthcare providers need to be prepared for the challenges posed by the fastest growing segment of the population, those over age 85. We may need to rethink how healthcare is delivered, and by whom:
We really think that care needs to be completely re-designed to be team-based care, to have ... health outreach workers, and people that can be trained at our community colleges, go out into the community and touch the individuals who need help in their homes and be supported by the primary care team back at the office, it's really the way we need to go. So, rather than building nursing homes and building more long-term care facilities, we should be advancing long-term care to be entirely community-based and team-based.
Gretchen Grosky is traveling around the state, reporting on issues of aging for the Union Leader "Silver Linings" series:
I met a wonderful couple up in Unity, NH, that had this absolutely beautiful small home on a mountainside, where you could see New York, you could see Vermont. And when the town was reassessed, they came in and said, "Wow you have a beautiful view," and their home value shot up over $125,000 in one year. They took in about $1600 in Social Security and were putting away $1100 of that every month to pay for their property taxes…the husband was working as a handy man, just to try to make some money. They would collect cans from the neighbors just to buy a case of beer, that was their one luxury, and she was housecleaning. And she’s had three strokes and it ended up, thankfully, they were able to sell their home, their family was not nearby, but they were able to sell their home and move into a smaller place, but they said "You know, what 80 year-old wants to move?"
We had a call from Justin, who is chair of the Economic Development and Sustainability Committee in Meredith, New Hampshire:
Meredith is a very fortunate community because of our position on Lake Winnipesaukee, but a few years ago we realized we are the second oldest town in Belknap County. Belknap County is the second oldest county in New Hampshire…we are ground zero for this… So the town got together and said "we’re going to address this head on." We’ve been doing it for about a year now and the more you get into it the more you realize, Good Lord, this is not an easy problem. You know, do we spend our resources making our schools better to attract young families, or do we spend our resources providing services that seniors need? Do we try and attract millennials or do we try and help middle age folks retrain for jobs? The more we’ve gotten into it the more we’ve realized, Good Lord this is a big challenge not just for us but for statewide…there’s no panacea that’s going to solve all the problems.