Highlighting ways to ensure an age-friendly Minnesota
When Gov. Tim Walz outlined his “One Minnesota” vision, proclaiming that everyone deserves the opportunity to thrive, it was clear that “everyone” most assuredly includes older Minnesotans. The Governor’s Council for an Age-Friendly Minnesota has embraced that vision, and our preliminary recommendations embody it.
The governor challenged the council to elevate the voices of older Minnesotans and identify ways that the state can approach aging in a more expansive, inclusive and effective way. This includes better collaboration and coordination between state agencies and promoting opportunities through public-private partnerships. It also requires a fundamental rethinking of aging and how state policies across the board influence Minnesotans’ experience of growing older.
We will continue our work to develop a final plan before the end of the year. This work supports Minnesota’s efforts to enroll in the World Health Organization/AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities.
Chief among our recommendations is a permanent age-friendly council with an appointed leader. Along with that, we seek the resources required to support the recommendations and ensure this work can be undertaken at the necessary level. This is systems’ change. It is an investment, one that will yield important social and economic returns.
Another key recommendation, the importance of which has been evident during the COVID-19 pandemic: Establishing systemic practices to ensure the safety of older adults in future emergencies.
The council approached its recommendations with the recognition that as older adults, we make enormous contributions to our communities – in the workforce, as volunteers, civic leaders, caregivers to grandchildren and other family members and many more. It is imperative that state agencies and their partners in communities across Minnesota work together to become a state where all of us can contribute and be engaged and supported in later life.
Yes, we are aging. In 2030, just 10 years from now, Baby Boomers will begin to turn 85 – and one in five Minnesotans will be over the age of 65. But this is about more than a demographic shift. It is about valuing and including all Minnesotans, of every age, at a new level.
Minnesota cannot neglect older adults despite the state budget shortfall or the pandemic. We must overcome these barriers in our statewide effort, which is part of a national and international age-friendly movement. Our work also must encompass all older adults, regardless of the color of their skin, their physical and cognitive abilities, or where they live.
The Council for an Age-Friendly Minnesota includes representatives from nine state agencies and six people who represent urban, rural, suburban and ethnic/cultural communities as well as older adults who have disabilities. We conducted extensive research, reaching out to all constituencies, but we’re not stopping here. We intend to continue
We are thrilled that communities across the state – including Maple Grove, Northfield, Alexandria and St. Cloud – and Olmsted and Hennepin counties are engaged in working to make every community, every county in Minnesota age-friendly. We see a multitude of opportunities for systemic changes that, as stated in the governor’s executive order, “promote equity and make progress toward equitable outcomes by examining programs, policies, and practices to ensure that they address disparities experienced by older adults in Greater Minnesota, older adults of color, and indigenous older adults.”
In addition to chairing the Governor’s Council for an Age-Friendly Minnesota, Sherrie Pugh is vice chair of the Minnesota Board on Aging. She is serving her second term on the board; she is on the Executive and Diversity committees and is co-chair of the Public Policy Committee. Pugh’s 35-year career in housing and community economic development has been focused on livable communities and enterprise development. She is an elected member of the Mound City Council.