Source: The Center Square

Leaders in some of Missouri’s agencies serving older adults praised Republican Gov. Mike Parson for his executive order establishing a master plan on aging.

“The time is right,” said Jay Hardenbrook, advocacy director for AARP Missouri in an interview with The Center Square. “I do think we’re a little bit overdue, but it has been a crazy couple of years.”

In a media release announcing the program, the governor’s office said the plan will reduce age and disability discrimination, eliminate barriers to safe and healthy aging and help Missourians age with dignity. It will be led by the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and completed by Dec. 31, 2025, the end of Parson’s term as governor.

“We’re thrilled beyond measure that this is happening,” Julie Peetz, the executive director of the Missouri Association of Area Agencies on Aging, said in an interview with The Center Square. “It’s time Missouri addresses aging and this master plan will bring together so many voices.”

The executive order creating the plan calls for agencies to ensure all Missourians have access to services and support they are eligible for to age safely and independently. It calls for ensuring older adults and those with disabilities have safe and healthy environments and avoid unnecessary institutionalization.

“A large focus area is to keep seniors independent and in their homes as long as possible, which is the best-case scenario for everyone because it’s cheaper, Medicaid-wise,” Becca Fields, co-chief executive officer of Senior Age Area Agency on Aging serving the Springfield area, said in an interview with The Center Square. “Their homes are where the people want to be. We focus on providing meals, safety equipment and other things so they can thrive in their own environment.”

Currently, 1.1 million of Missouri’s 6 million total population are over age 60. Population projections show older adults will outnumber minors for the first time by 2030. Older adults will greatly outnumber minors by 2060.

“Through this plan, we will develop a 10-year framework that provides a guiding vision for policies and programs to support our senior communities,” Parson said in a statement announcing the action. “Our administration has always prioritized job creation, strong wages, and competitive markets for all Missourians. Missouri needs to prepare for a restructured workforce that can include and serve older adults across the state.”

Hardenbrook hopes for a strong continuum of care for older adults.

“I don’t think the priority is necessarily any one particular program,” Hardenbrook said. “I think the priority should be effective and efficient delivery of services to provide for the needs of the older population.”

Parson’s order tasks DHSS with creation of an advisory council comprised of stakeholders representing a wide range of interests, including aging in place, supporting those with disabilities, local governments, healthcare providers, and health research institutions.

“The initial thrust will be to identify needs and gaps in services,” Peetz said. “We realize so many people working in this area are siloed. This will give everyone a chance to come together and share ideas, hear voices and really collaborate.”

Joe Muller, Staff Reporter, The Center Square: Joe Mueller covers Missouri for The Center Square. After seven years of reporting for daily newspapers in Illinois and Missouri, he spent the next 30 years in public relations serving non-profit organizations and as a strategic communications consultant.

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