New Hampshire has the fourth oldest median population in the country and one of the fastest growing percentage of residents over 65. Some recent projections indicate those 65 or older will exceed 30 percent statewide by 2030, with some counties going as high as 44 percent. It’s been dubbed the “Silver Tsunami.”
“The increase in New Hampshire’s aging population has been referred to as a tsunami,” said Wendi Aultman, Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services (BEAS) Bureau Chief, who finds the moniker ageist. “Many people see that as a negative phrase, to connect aging with a natural disaster - we want to change the conversation.”
Residents can now take a step to inform that new conversation by participating in the first State Plan on Aging Survey.
“We’re trying to create an opportunity for people to provide input about what their needs are, where they get information, how they access information, and what they are experiencing in aging,” said Aultman.
“Not everyone who is aging engages in community centers or is accessing public funds,” said Aultman, who noted that isolation for older residents is often a roadblock to finding help. “This information in the survey tells us where to focus our energy in outreach and education.”
The anonymous survey consists of 29 questions and will give respondents a chance to offer input on their current life status, community engagement, economic well being and future concerns.
The survey is being conducted by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services' (DHHS), Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services (BEAS) and the State Plan on Aging (SPOA) Planning Committee.
Results from the survey will join feedback garnered from 13 listening sessions held around the state since October and be the basis for the 2019 – 2023 NH State Plan on Aging.
The official four-year Plan is a road map for local officials and agencies as they seek to best allocate resources to address the concerns of the aging citizens in their towns.
An official state plan is also a requirement to receive federal funding for programs under the Older Americans Act. A first draft is scheduled to be released in July 2019.
Since the last Plan for Aging was compiled in 2015 several new challenges have risen to the forefront for the Granite State’s older residents. Some are surprising, like the reports of bullying at senior housing and apartments, while others mirror larger issue within the state.
This includes a shortage of workers to provide care giving services. “Some of the issue is pay, but some is also the workforce not staying in the state or being taken by competing jobs,” said Aultman, who noted that the shortage has caused more aging residents to become caregivers themselves to spouses and family members.
This lack of human capital is compounded by the increased strain on financial resources as the numbers of those relying on programs such as adult daycare, delivered meals, in-home visits and transportation increases.
“We need to provide more services to more people with the same amount of dollars.” said Aultman. “We don’t need a short term fix. This is a population that is aging and that want to age at home and in communities that are friendly.”
So far the response to the survey has been robust. “We’re very pleased with the amount of surveys we’ve received so far,” said Aultman. “We’ve exceeded our goal and the number continues to grow every day.”
To take the survey and make your voice heard visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NHSPOASurvey by Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. Expect to spend 10 to 15 minutes to complete.