In a meeting with the Rochester Post-Bulletin’s editorial board a few years ago, a visitor suggested older residents should be encouraged to vacate their homes so that younger home buyers can enter the market.
Such ageism is rampant in our society and is an indication that the time is right for Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order, announced last week, that the state create a Council on Age Friendly Minnesota. The order requires state agencies to cooperate on efforts to make the state a better place for older people to live.
The significance behind the order is that in 2020, Minnesota will arrive at a point with more residents over the age of 65 than under the age of 18.
Yet, as advocates for the aged have noted, a relatively small amount of attention and funding is applied to programs for older residents of the state. Investments simply have not kept pace with the demographic changes.
“Everyone wants to live in a community that is respectful, inclusive and supportive of our contributions and needs,” Walz said in announcing the executive order.
However, not all older Minnesotans live in such a place. A host of issues, ranging from transportation to health care access, pose problems for older citizens, especially for members of minority communities.
Over and over, though, the prominent hurdle to a good life for seniors is ageism. It affects employment, health services, housing, mobility and the roles older Minnesotans are welcome to play in the lives of their hometowns.
The governor’s goal is to earn for Minnesota an age-friendly designation from the AARP. To date, Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Northfield, Alexandria and Maple Grove have committed to that process.
The involvement of state agencies promises to take the age-friendly effort statewide. That’s the appropriate level of commitment, in our view. “It must be a collective effort that requires coordination, collaboration, innovation and focus across stage agencies,” Walz said.
The policy initiatives that will come are important. What’s more important, though, is changing a mind-set that says older residents of the state should move aside and make room for others.
That’s not the way we treat our valued citizens in Minnesota.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE ROCHESTER POST-BULLETIN