On the second Monday in January, the 66th Washington State Legislature convenes its 2019 session in Olympia. Throughout the session—which meets for 105 days in odd-numbered years—Aging Network advocates will meet with their elected representatives in the State Senate and House of Representatives to talk about issues, resources, and solutions.
The Seattle-King County Advisory Council for Aging & Disability Services and others who participate in the Washington Senior Lobby will talk with legislators about many issues, including:
- Affordable and accessible housing—the most critical issue facing older adults in our region. We’d like the legislature to make it easier for older homeowners to qualify and apply for the Senior Property Tax Exemption program. We’d like them to explore ways this benefit could be extended to low-income renters, too. And we’d like them to continue to invest in the Housing Trust Fund—critical to increase the supply of affordable units.
- Affordable, accessible, and reliable transportation options—making it easier to remain independent and mobile, and to avoid isolation.
- Meaningful opportunities for employment, a safe and secure retirement system, and access to quality healthcare—especially given the high cost of living and the cost of health care, both of which continue to increase.
- Support for a Long-Term Care Trust Act that that would enable working people to invest in an account to support the cost of personal care, medical assistance, transportation, meals, and more later in life—protecting families and our state’s Medicaid system from impoverishment.
- Support the Dementia Action Collaborative’s legislative agenda—including funding for dissemination of dementia care best practices to primary care practitioners; expansion of evidence-based public health messaging on normal aging, the warning signs of dementia, and the value of early diagnosis; promotion of early legal and advance care planning; development of a dementia care specialist program; and expanded specialized service capacity for people with dementia and their family caregivers.
- Support a requirement for audiologists to help patients understand new assisted listening system technologies, like hearing loops. We believe that a few minutes of focused instruction in the audiologist’s office can greatly improve quality of life. (Also, we applaud our state legislature for restoring hearing aid coverage for adults on Medicaid during the last legislative session.)
- Of utmost importance, a strong system of community-based supports for older adults, people with disabilities, individuals with memory loss, and family caregivers.
Washington state’s long-term services and supports system is ranked 1st in the nation for affordability and access to services and support for family caregivers. We rank 38th out of 50 states on the median annual home care private pay cost as a percentage of median household income for people age 65 and older. Put simply, our state is first in quality at a much lower cost than most other states. This is a testament to the effectiveness of the Medicaid case management programs run by Area Agencies on Aging, like Aging and Disability Services. Our case managers help clients access the services and supports they need to continue to live in their own homes rather than move to a costlier care facility.
Area Agency on Aging case managers have saved the state more than three billion dollars over the past 15 years. Unfortunately, funding for case management services did not increase during the height of the recession and, despite modest increases since then, has yet to catch up to the increased cost of living. Increased funding is needed to ensure that the system can effectively respond to our state’s growing older population.
The Age Wave is very real. According to DSHS aging demographic data, the number of people in King County age 60 and older increased by 33.6 percent from 2010 to 2018, and will reach 42 percent growth by 2020. Over the same decade, the number of King County residents age 18 and up who have disabilities will grow by almost 19 percent. Aging and Disability Services serves people age 18 and up who are Medicaid-eligible and have two or more Activities of Daily Living they cannot perform—activities like personal hygiene, getting in and out of bed, dressing, eating, and mobility.
Additional support is needed to ensure the quality of the AAA Case Management Program is strengthened and sustained.
What can the average everyday Aging Network advocate do to help?
- Learn about the issues above and others by following legislation tracked by the Washington Senior Lobby. Talk about these issues with your friends and family.
- Visit Washington State Legislature to find and contact your legislator and to learn about bills, agendas, committees, etc. Talk with your neighbors so they know what your legislators are doing.
- Memorize the Washington State Legislative Hotline number: 1-800-562-6000
- Read 10 Tasks for Effective Legislative Advocacy in the December 2017 issue of AgeWise.
- Subscribe to the ADS Advisory Council Advocacy e-mail list. Click here to open a subscription e-mail and press the send button.
- Call, e-mail, text, tweet and/or write a letter and share your thoughts on Aging Network issues with your own state legislators.
Quantity—the volume of contacts each legislator receives makes a difference. Quality—sharing your stories (how you, your friends and/or family members are or are not getting by) can make a huge difference. We need both.
Contributor Ava Frisinger chairs the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services, which publishes AgeWise King County. She welcomes input from readers via e-mail (email@example.com) as well as applicants for open positions on the council. For more information, visit www.agingkingcounty.org/advisory-council.
Mark Your Calendars
Following are some of the events that Advisory Council members will participate in this month and next:
- Friday, January 11 (2 p.m.): Mayor’s Council on African American Elders, Seattle Municipal Tower 4090
- Thursday, January 17 (10–11 a.m.): Age Friendly Seattle Coffee Hour featuring Seattle Human Services Department director Jason Johnson.
- Friday, January 18 (8:30 a.m.): Age Friendly Coalition for Seattle & King County (steering committee)
- Friday, February 8 (12–2 p.m.): ADS Advisory Council, Seattle Municipal Tower 4050/4060
- Tuesday, February 19 (10 a.m.–3 p.m.): Alzheimer’s Advocacy Day, Washington State Capitol Campus, Olympia
- Tuesday, February 26 (all day): 2019 Senior Lobby Day at United Churches and Washington State Capitol Campus, Olympia
For more local Aging Network events, click here.