The Mills Administration announced on Thursday, February 4, 2021, Maine’s final Age-Friendly State Plan, the culmination of more than a year of collaboration with AARP and more than 50 other organizations throughout the state to craft a comprehensive strategy to help Maine’s older residents live well and safely in their communities.
The plan follows Maine’s designation in October 2019 as an AARP Age-Friendly State, the first step in a multiyear process to make Maine more livable for people of every age. Maine was the sixth state in the nation to receive the coveted designation, which provided access to critical data, technical advice, best practices, and organizing tools to help Maine plan for the future and learn from a global network of partners to better serve older Mainers. Today, more than 100 communities in Maine also have the Age-Friendly designation.
Maine’s population is currently the oldest in the nation, with residents 60 and older making up nearly a third of the state’s total population. The Age-Friendly State Plan confronts this reality by offering strategies for how Mainers can age in their homes and communities as long as possible while continuing to contribute to the economy and live healthy lives.
“Maine’s aging population is a valuable asset that can help us diversify our economy, strengthen our workforce, and create a brighter future for our state,” said Governor Mills. “But Maine’s demographics and the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic also present challenges that require innovative thinking, a solid plan, and decisive action to ensure our state continues to be a place where people of all ages can thrive. This plan is the result of strong collaboration among partners throughout our state who are devoted to this vision and my Administration looks forward to working with them to achieve its goals.”
“On behalf of AARP Maine and all Mainers 50 and older, we thank Governor Mills for her leadership as Maine continues to serve as an age-friendly model for other states to follow,” said Lori Parham, AARP Maine State Director. “The new Maine Age-Friendly Action Plan sets our state on a strong path forward to address both the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. This plan dignifies our collective commitment to make our cities, towns, and neighborhoods livable and safe for all of us as we age.”
Under the plan, Maine’s Age-Friendly work will focus on 7 areas:
Health Coverage, Health Care, Healthy Aging, and Supportive Services: Protect access to health coverage through the Made for Maine Health Coverage Act, test new models for delivering health care, promote access to community services that prevent admissions to hospitals and nursing homes, and improve management of chronic health conditions
Housing: Promote access to affordable housing by exploring new models, such as intergenerational and shared housing, and support older Mainers in remaining at home through modifications and accessibility improvements
Employment and Financial Security: Embrace an aging workforce by incentivizing employers and creating training programs, improve access to existing financial planning and retirement resources, and protect older Mainers from fraud
Accessible Communication and Information: Support access to high-speed internet and cellular service, make services and resources easier to access
Transportation: Increase support for creative methods of transportation to reduce social isolation, increase access to goods and services, and allow Mainers to age in the communities of their choice
Natural Resource Management, Outdoor Spaces and Recreation: Encourage opportunities for outdoor recreation for all abilities, support farmers and woodlot owners in succession planning to help them maintain their properties for future generations
Respect, Equity and Social Engagement: Expand opportunities for inclusion and diversity, help aging Mainers retain dignity and autonomy, promote volunteerism and community service
Maine engaged multiple stakeholders and community leaders (PDF) throughout 2020 in drafting the Age-Friendly State Plan. Two committees, the Age-Friendly State Advisory Committee and the Age-Friendly State Steering Committee, worked throughout the year to identify these seven areas, highlight existing organizations doing important work in these areas, and to draft goals to guide Maine’s efforts moving forward. The effort was supported with staff contributions from the Public Allies Livable Communities Corps, a national public service initiative that placed volunteers in five states, including Maine.
The Maine Departments of Health and Human Services; Labor; Transportation; and Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry, along with MaineHousing and other agencies, collaborated with AARP Maine on the plan. The plan is not specific to only state government, but can be used by businesses, civic groups, landowners, municipalities, non-profits, and others to ensure that Maine continues to be a place where people of all ages can thrive.
“We’re committed to ensuring that Maine people of all ages can live with good health, independence, dignity, and meaning in their communities,” said Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “This plan provides a roadmap for DHHS and our partners in state government and throughout Maine to support our aging population wisely and effectively.”
“One of the very strengths of Maine’s workforce is the experience and work ethic of our older residents,” said Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman. “This plan and the collaboration behind it will ensure that not only is our state welcoming to people of all ages but that our communities and employers continue to benefit from the talents that they bring.”
"This plan positions Maine to welcome more older residents into the state’s treasured open spaces and supports family farmers and woodland owners in protecting their legacies for future generations," said Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Commissioner Amanda Beal. "We were honored to participate in this collaborative effort and look forward to helping make Maine more livable for people of all ages."
"Participating in the Age-Friendly State Advisory Committee highlighted how government, public and private sector service providers, and advocates can work together to bridge the usual silos that often act as barriers to good policy solutions,” said Rep. Jessica Fay. “By including people with all different kinds of expertise in the seven areas addressed, this process has been a learning experience for all of us and has resulted in a useful, high-quality plan. DHHS staff facilitated in-depth conversations leading to concrete strategic objectives, which when utilized, will not only positively impact the overall well-being and quality of life of older Mainers, but of all Maine people. I am excited to continue to follow this work and look forward to seeing the fruits of such an inclusive process."
“As the oldest state in the nation, it is critical government, businesses, advocates, and others come together to ensure aging Mainers can live full, productive, and healthy lives,” said Senator Marianne Moore. “This new plan is the result of collaboration by committed partners throughout the state and represents a significant accomplishment that will improve the lives of all Maine people.”
Maine will now turn to implementing the recommendations and working with local partners to encourage age-friendly initiatives in all parts of the state, sponsored by employers, municipalities, community-based organizations, educational institutions, places of worship, and others. At the state level, the Mills Administration will work to develop policies consistent with the plan and benchmarks to track progress toward its goals.
The Mills Administration has taken numerous steps to address barriers that prevent older residents from living safely in their homes and communities, including releasing $15 million in voter-approved bonds to build new affordable homes for older adults and to modify, repair, and weatherize existing homes. The Administration directed property tax relief for hundreds of thousands of Maine residents and enacted the Maine Affordable Housing Tax Credit program to double the construction rate of new affordable housing. Maine has also established the Elder Justice Coordinating Partnership to combat abuse of older adults, restored a program to make prescription medications affordable for older Mainers, and enacted laws to allow the wholesale importation of prescription medicine, create a prescription drug affordability board, increase drug price transparency, and better regulate pharmacy benefit managers.