Colorado’s Citizen Legislature – Feb. 2021
By Doris Beaver ~
Opening day for the General Assembly was January 12th, and another session is well underway.
House Bill 22-1035:
HB 1035 concerns “Modernization of the ‘Older Americans Act,’ and runs a whopping 24 pages. The “modernization” is very extensive as to the establishment of a Commission on Aging in the state department of Colorado. The purpose and description in the bill is very encouraging to this writer who admits to being a member of the “older Coloradans” segment of the population.
The legislative declaration is demonstrative as to the in-depth work and research done for this bill. Older Coloradans want to know the details of what is planned for them by the state of Colorado. Why? “The number of persons in the state sixty years of age or older is increasing rapidly, and, of these persons, the number of women, people of color and persons seventy-five years of age or older is expanding at an even greater rate.
A state well-adapted for aging is one where all individuals can thrive and are adequately supported. A “Colorado for Colorado” must support a high quality of life for older Coloradans and their families “by promoting health and well being, supporting long-term services, fostering workforce development and self-sufficiency, creating livable communities and integrating aging policy and programs across state government.”
To ensure Coloradans the best state in which to grow old, certain goals must guide aging and aging services in Colorado. The General Assembly points out in the legislative declaration that a historic demographic shift over the next 50 years will mean opportunities and challenges for an expected number of older workers remaining in the workforce and older Coloradans shifting into retirement. The demographic “will result in wide-ranging economic and social impacts on the workforce, housing, transportation, long-term services and supports, and health care.”
Among the guides are that older Coloradans being able to live and fully participate in their communities of choice as long as possible, stay engaged in the labor force or volunteer sector as long as they want, have financial security and be prepared to meet the challenges of aging, and Coloradans being prepared for the caring of aged loved ones without endangering their own well-being.
Further positive predictions in the legislative declaration are how critical it is for the state to “empower and educate residents from an early age to prepare for the realities of a long life” and “encourage residents to engage in retirement, planning, health and wellness, preservation activities and services, lifelong learning, cross-generation collaboration and civic engagement.”
Set forth by the General Assembly is a priority for the complexity of certain issues to develop policies that support communities and families across Colorado:
- aging that varies from person to person;
- aging differently – some remaining mentally and physically capable until they die; and
- others experiencing mental and physical disabilities earlier in life.
Historical disparities such as racism, sexism and ageism also impact the aging process. The provisions set forth in HB 22-1035 are long-needed recognition of what should have been updated throughout the years since passage of the first Older Coloradans Act.”
The General Assembly also states in HB 1035 that it is Colorado’s policy to protect older Coloradans from abuse, neglect, exploitation and other harmful acts, involve older Coloradans in planning and operations of all programs and services involving them, reduce health disparities and support aging across an individual’s lifespan, including the removal of barriers to such and recognize these are part of the state’s responsibilities.
HB 1035 is a significant update of the “Older Coloradans Act” and one that is most certainly needed. Such a major undertaking “through community planning, social services, health and well-being services and strategies to prepare the state’s infrastructure,” indicates a meaningful and monumental plan for massive change that is accountable to the Governor, Executive Directors of impacted agencies and the General Assembly. Special note should be made that “study and recommendations to ensure that people released from prison who are sixty-five years of age or older are able to access health insurance after release,” and emphasizes that “potential challenges, gaps or resources” be dealt with, such as old-age pension or any potential options for health care insurance, or any other eligible criteria that may uniquely impact a formerly incarcerated population.
HB 22-1035 is yet to have its first committee hearing.
Sponsors of House Bill 22-1035: Representatives Mary Young, D-Weld, 866-2929, and Mary Bradfield, R-El Paso, 866-2946; Senators Joann Ginal, D-Larimer, 866-4841, and Bob Rankin, R-Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Routt, Summit, 866-5292.
Doris Beaver is a freelance journalist who writes from her home high in the Colorado Rocky Mountains on senior issues, politics, ethics and environmental issues, and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.. Visit her website www.dorisbeaver.com, or e-mail her at email@example.com.