April 30, 2007

Cokato prepares for age wave

With baby boomers getting older, communities like Cokato look ahead

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Wright County Human Services is working with communities like Cokato to educate and find ways to better prepare for Minnesota’s largest elderly population.

A community-based services meeting took place at Cokato Manor last week to begin a discussion and generate ideas for what the Cokato community can do to better help with upcoming growth in numbers of elderly.

A partnership between Minnesota Board of Aging and the Department of Health Services have developed the “Transform 2010,” initiative to help communities such as Cokato begin an action plan that will accommodate this growth.

Needs that may accommodate this growth include health care, senior transportation, and increased need for family caregiving.

Ann Benson, Wright County public health nurse, mediated the discussion with community stakeholders present including council member Janice Severson and Thrivent Financial’s Joel Hillmann, and Nancy Moyer, a Cokato Charitable Trust social worker.

By the year 2030, the number of people over the age of 65 in Wright County will triple, according to Minnesota Department of Human Services.

Benson explained that people are living longer, increasing the need for healthcare, with 67 percent of ages 65 and older having two or more chronic illnesses.

Some suggestions for solutions to forseeable needs Cokato could face were to increase transportation for seniors, expand availability and public awareness of services for caregivers, and increase volunteerism within the community.

Special themes of action for the 2010 initiative include:

• recognize the resource that older persons represent to Minnesota and support their continued engagement in paid and nonpaid roles.

• Encourage Minnesotans to lead healthy lives and prepare for their retirement and old age.

• Support families as caregivers for their older relatives.

• Create livable communities that are supportive across the life cycle.

• Transform the fragmented and separate systems of health and long-term care into an integrated model that improves quality, access, and chronic care management.

• Transform the long-term care system, from a paternalistic model, to one that is consumer and family centered, and supportive and respectful of the unique needs of each individual.

• Make system changes in ways that respect cultural and ethnic differences, and improve access for older persons with communication, hearing, visual, physical, or mental disabilities.

• Strengthen our consumer protection and quality assurance systems to support and protect the growing number of older frail persons.

• Recruit and retain a stable work force in health and long-term care that has geriatric training and competence.

• Maximize use of technology to redesign systems and provide services more efficiently to more people.

Further discussion will take place about this topic among Cokato representatives including area agencies on aging, health, and long-term care providers, nonprofit and volunteer agencies that provide aging services, older persons, consumer advocates, local citizens, and elected officials.

For more information or to be a part of the Cokato Community-Based Services group, contact Ann Benson at (763) 684-4528.

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