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Ohio Department of Aging director addresses House Aging and Long-Term Care Committee about the state of older Ohioans and services and supports for them Bookmark

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Ursel J. McElroy outlined the administration’s priorities for population health, economic stability, and elder justice

Columbus, Ohio – Ursel J. McElroy, director of the Ohio Department of Aging, addressed the members of the Ohio House Aging and Long-Term Care Committee today. Speaking on the invitation of Committee Chair Ginter, Director McElroy described the current state of older adults in Ohio and the critical issues they face. She also outlined the administration’s priorities for evolving the state’s system of services and supports to fully meet the needs of older Ohioans and their caregivers.

“Aging is a human experience, shared by all. I am the face of aging. You are the face of aging. We are all the faces of aging,” McElroy said. “Aging is ordinary and yet, has the potential to be extraordinary. It seems, the more we age, the more our values come into focus. Embracing our maturity fosters positive and healthy aging for us all.”

The director shared several facts about Ohio’s older adult population with the committee:

  • Ohio is the sixth-largest 65-plus population in the nation.
  • There are approximately 2.8 million Ohioans over the age of 60.
  • Ohio’s 60-plus population is growing at a rate 28 times faster than the rest of the population

“At the Ohio Department of Aging, our most important work is ahead of us,” McElroy added. “We are learning, evolving, and transforming our priorities so we can deliver on our commitment to make Ohio the best place to live and age in the nation. We are traveling the state and learning what it means to age in Ohio.”

The director described for the committee the administration’s three key priorities for serving older adults: Population health, economic stability, and elder justice.

“Where you are born and live often can have more influence on your ability to stay healthy than your family history of illness,” she said of population health. “Access to affordable housing, transportation, and nutritious foods, as well as safe neighborhoods, and healthy behaviors determine health outcomes more than genetic makeup.”

On economic stability, Director McElroy said: “With increased life expectancy comes a larger population of retirees. In light of the cost of care and a shortage of workers, the economic strains become harder to avoid. We must address the financial implications on three levels: 1) personal responsibility; 2) community responsibility; and 3) responsive systems.”

“Elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation can devastate the lives of those we love,” McElroy said of elder justice. “Ohio’s elder justice programs have not kept pace with our aging society. Criminals targeting older Ohioans are leaving them and their families penniless, physically and emotionally injured, heart-broken by betrayal, and despondent about their futures. This diminishes health quality and lifespan.”

“We must balance making incremental changes in some areas, while seeking bold change in others,” she added. “Where it makes sense to continue the legacy of tried and true programs, we will. Where we need to start from scratch and innovate, we will.”

Technology was also a subject of discussion with the committee. “Technology is a vital and inextricable part of our lives,” McElroy said. “It has changed the way we do many things, from making a simple phone call, buying food, scheduling appointments, driving to where we need to be, and more. It is also an increasingly important aspect of providing services and care that has historically been underutilized. It is essential for us to be an innovative, data driven, and technology-enabled organization.”

“We recognize the significance of the task ahead of us as the decisions we make will impact the lives of all Ohioans,” Director McElroy concluded. “Our key policy priorities highlight challenges facing aging Ohioans. These rapidly emerging issues create risk for Ohioans and the state.”

Director McElroy’s full testimony can be accessed on the Ohio House of Representatives website.

About ODA – The Ohio Department of Aging serves and advocates for the needs of Ohioans age 60 and older, as well as their families, caregivers and communities. Programs include home and community based long-term supports and services, as well as initiatives to promote health and wellness throughout the lifespan. Visit www.aging.ohio.gov.
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