Warm Greetings

The five leaders of Connecticut’s independent Area Agencies on Aging are proud to debut AgingCT News. While we address the unique challenges of our different service regions, we are privileged to serve as the collective voice for Connecticut’s seniors, individuals with disabilities, and caregivers. Thank you for your partnership as we celebrate our successes and address the challenges of aging and disability in Connecticut.

Imagine returning home from a hospitalization unable to bathe and dress yourself, or no longer able to manage household tasks. Some of us may have family who can help with daily chores and caregiving; others might have money to pay for assistance. Do you have the resources for much-needed in-home care to remain safe in your own home? New legislation called presumptive eligibility may help.

Presumptive eligibility, a concept voted into law this session will make immediate in-home care available for residents likely to qualify for the Connecticut Home Care Program. This program offers an alternative to nursing home placement and reassuring peace of mind for older adults and their families who are often thrust into the lengthy, complicated Medicaid system following hospital discharge.

Medicaid is the primary payer of long-term care services but eligibility can take 90+ days, leaving patients and families to scramble for financial resources to private pay for in-home care. Despite a strong desire to return to their own home to recuperate, many patients are ultimately placed in nursing homes because these facilities are better prepared to absorb the cost of care while a patient awaits Medicaid eligibility. For many, a short-term stay turns into long-term placement. 

Presumptive eligibility is a game-changer, allowing people faster access to Medicaid so they can receive in-home care. Plans call for the creation of a presumptive eligibility program, with new screening tools and financial information available to quickly determine Medicaid eligibility. Case managers and social workers will help to facilitate the process and services. 

There is substantial evidence of the savings associated with presumptive eligibility, with a 2021 AARP report citing that “on average, states can provide care for approximately three individuals at home for the cost of one in a nursing home.” Still, the state is allowed to discontinue the bill after two years if it does not prove cost effective.

AgingCT has been a driving force behind in-home care to support a client’s independence and quality of life in their own home and is well-positioned to lead the presumptive eligibility effort. 

Allowing a person the dignity and comfort to age in the place they call home seems like a good idea to just about everyone. In a sweeping show of bi-partisan support, Substitute for Raised House Bill No. 5001 An Act Supporting Connecticut Seniors and the Improvement of Nursing and Home-Based Care passed 143 to 3 in the House and unanimously in the Senate. It was signed into law by Governor Ned Lamont on May 21, 2024.

In more good news, HB5523 An Act Concerning Federal American Rescue Plan Act included funds to assist AgingCT with information and outreach as well as additional funds for a variety of transportation initiatives – perennial high-priority items for older adults. Special thanks for the bi-partisan support and leadership of Representative Matthew Ritter, D-Hartford; Senator Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford; and Representative Jane Garibay, D-Windsor.

Partners in the Aging Network

Embracing Partnerships: The Vital Role of the Aging Network in Community Leadership

Together, as the five Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) navigate the complexities of an aging population, one thing has become increasingly clear: collaboration is key. Within the vast tapestry of services and support systems, the Aging Network stands as a beacon of unity bringing together diverse partners to champion the well-being of our seniors, individuals with disabilities, and caregivers. 

Together, the AAA’s distribute over $40 million throughout the Aging Network to aid older adults and individuals with disabilities. Serving as thought leaders, we engage in advocacy and education efforts, targeting legislators, policymakers, and Connecticut residents to address issues crucial to aging constituents and their supporters.

Unified under AgingCT, we advocate for policy reforms like Presumptive Eligibility, which swiftly provides temporary healthcare coverage to eligible individuals while their full eligibility is determined. AgingCT also champions fair compensation for health and human services, ensuring nonprofit providers have the resources necessary to support Connecticut’s vulnerable residents.

Together, we urge legislators to sustain their backing for community-based navigators, essential for guiding older adults, caregivers, and municipalities through a complex support system. Additionally, AgingCT supports the Nutrition Task Force’s initiatives to modernize contracting and payment systems, facilitating older adult enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to mitigate nutritional risks.

Recognizing the transportation challenges faced by low-income residents, particularly those residing far from public transit routes, AgingCT advocates for innovative transportation solutions. Through our multifaceted advocacy efforts, AgingCT strives to enhance the quality of life for aging individuals and promote inclusive, supportive communities across Connecticut.

At the heart of this network lies the profound recognition of the interdependence between community stakeholders. Whether it’s government agencies, healthcare providers, non-profit organizations, or volunteers, each entity plays a vital role in crafting holistic solutions for the aging population.

Why is this intersection so crucial? It’s because no single entity possesses all the answers or resources needed to address the multifaceted challenges of aging. By fostering partnerships, the Aging Network cultivates a synergistic environment where expertise, resources, and perspectives converge to form comprehensive strategies.

Our commitment to partnership extends beyond mere rhetoric; it’s woven into the fabric of our operations. Through strategic alliances, we maximize efficiency, minimize duplication of efforts, and amplify the impact of our interventions. Together, we create a ripple effect of positive change that resonates far beyond the confines of our immediate sphere.

In embracing our role as leaders within the Aging Network, we embrace a future where aging is not just a challenge to overcome but an opportunity to flourish. By standing shoulder to shoulder with our partners, we affirm our dedication to empowering seniors, enriching communities, and shaping a legacy of compassion and inclusion.

Please join us, Tuesday, November 19, 2024, for the AgingCT/Summit as we continue this journey of collaboration, innovation, and transformation. Together, we’ll navigate the currents of change and emerge stronger, more resilient, and more united than ever before.

Summer signals fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables bursting with color and flavor, and the hometown hustle and bustle of lively local farmers markets. Many older adults eagerly sign up for the CT Department of Agriculture (DoAG) Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) that provides low-income seniors with seasonal access to locally grown fruits, vegetables, honey, and herbs. Why then, do those same seniors stop short of participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which provides funding for a variety of healthy foods purchased at many locations year-round…especially when both programs have the same income guidelines? Here’s some food for thought.

According to 2022 data on food insecurity in Connecticut by Feeding America, the largest charity working to end hunger in the United States, 468,150 CT residents don’t know where their next meal will come from, making them food insecure. That’s 12.9% of the population, or 1 out of every 8 people in our state. Chances are that your neighbor is hungry. Chances are you don’t realize it.

This article found Senior Resources Executive Director Alison Dvorak literally out in the field coordinating the SFMNP with DoAG. The program runs from June 1 to November 30th and is open to seniors over 60 and disabled individuals meeting income and housing guidelines. Benefits can be redeemed at Connecticut farmers’ markets and select farmstands throughout the state.

Dvorak said that participation is always high for the farmers market program, which provides a seasonal stipend, but people are hesitant to sign up for SNAP benefits, which provide monthly food stipends. She shared a story of a client who called her agency about the farmers market program, learned that she also qualified for SNAP, and began receiving almost $100 a month more for nutrition.

“It was a huge help for her,” said Dvorak. “We want more people to learn about SNAP and enjoy the nutritional and financial benefits.”

According to the Administration for Community Living, for older adults, nutrition services to promote the general health and well-being of people age 60 and older are authorized under Title III-C of the Older Americans Act, which funds local senior nutrition programs. These nutrition services include heathy home-delivered meals and meals served in group settings, such as senior centers and faith-based locations. 

Senior nutrition programs are managed by Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs). The programs provide a range of services including nutrition screening, assessment, education, and counseling. SNAP is a state-funded program that gives people in Connecticut help to buy food. So metaphorically speaking, when it comes to these programs, AgingCT is involved from soup to nuts.

Connecticut legislators recently unanimously passed Senate Bill 396, now Public Act 24-99, An Act Implementing Task Force Recommendations for the Elderly Nutrition Program. Many of the provisions in this bill came from the task force formed in response to a drop in federal funding as well as rising food costs. The bill calls for the development of a plan to maximize SNAP benefits to support the elderly nutrition program.

“Food security is one of the biggest challenges of aging due to rising food costs, reduced ability to use transportation, and even the physical challenges of carrying groceries,” explained Dvorak, who is also a registered dietitian and was involved with the task force recommendations. “Senior nutrition programs are woven into service navigation provided by AgingCT. Another benefit of our association is that we have streamlined some activities of managing the program by working together and sharing best practices. We encourage older adults, their caregivers, and anyone who works directly with older adults to connect with us to learn more. The need to eat is everywhere…and AgingCT has solutions to keep our aging population from experiencing hunger.”

An Initiative to Improve the Experience of Aging

AgingCT combines the power of five nonprofit Area Agencies on Aging to create a collaborative statewide network of coordinated information, resources, and referrals to better assist Connecticut residents with aging-related issues. This professional association serves as more than just a hub for collaboration; it embodies leadership in action as we develop innovative approaches to aging issues through advocacy, legislation, and research.

In 2022, AgingCT sponsored The Great AAAsk, a statewide survey that asked all Connecticut residents ages 60 and older to offer their insights on the aging and caregiving experience. The data from this survey was used to inform AgingCT’s key areas of focus as well as legislative priorities. In short, your voices gave rise to our collective voice, and we continue to raise it on federal, state, and local levels to champion for older adults, individuals with disabilities, and caregivers.

While we are five separate agencies, leveraging our common strengths and experiences has shown us that we’re not just adapting to change – we’re driving it.

Thanks to ground-breaking support and multi-year funding from the Point32 Health Foundation, we’re improving services by asking better questions and working together to advance our Aging Answers initiative.

Aging Answers connects Connecticut’s older adults and their caregivers to long-term care services and supportive services to help maximize their independence. We assist clients with private home care and the many programs associated with in-home care; provide Medicare and Supplemental Insurance guidance; care supports; respite services; and health, wellness, and nutrition programs.

Programs won’t succeed unless you have people behind them dedicated to improving the lives of others. Each of the five Area Agencies on Aging work with Service Navigators who assist older adults and caregivers with complex benefit enrollment and program applications and offer person-centered planning to empower informed decision-making.

The impact of a Service Navigator extends beyond individual assistance as they also collaborate with municipalities to identify community needs and develop targeted solutions, fostering a more supportive environment for seniors and caregivers alike.

The increasing demand for services is evident in the statistics. With the senior population growing rapidly, especially those aged 60 and above, and the 85 and older demographic witnessing remarkable expansion, the need for additional support is undeniable. Our 2022 GreatAAAsk survey revealed that half of the state’s residents are uncertain about where to seek long-term care support and services. Thanks to initiatives like Aging Answers, older adults, individuals with disabilities, and caregivers can find reassurance in knowing they are not alone on their journey towards maximizing independence and quality of life. Find your Area Agency on Aging and many other helpful resources on the AgingCT website.