A packed crowd filled the Old Supreme Court Chambers at the Capitol yesterday morning for the 35th Senior Day at the Capitol. The event was put together by the Colorado Senior Lobby (CSL) and featured speeches by Governor John Hickenlooper, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and representatives from a range of groups that support older groups in Colorado. Despite a concurrent budget caucus, a few legislators also dropped into both the morning and afternoon sessions to show their support for senior issues.
Colorado’s Growing Senior Population Will Impact Everyone
Rich Mauro of CSL was asked about the biggest challenge facing those who advocate for older Coloradans. His answer encompassed the major theme of Senior Day at the Capitol. All morning legislators, senior advocates and citizens talked about the growing population of seniors in Colorado. The biggest challenge at the moment is really to raise awareness among policy makers of the situation. This growth is huge, has no end in sight and, most importantly, will impact everyone. Current programs and funding will not suffice.
The Strategic Action Planning Group on Aging (SAPGA) was created last year through legislation to make recommendations to address the senior population explosion in Colorado. The group will present its results in November to the Governor and General Assembly. Jim Riesberg, Chairman of the SAGPA, told the group yesterday that one of their conclusions is that Colorado must address the issues of aging throughout the entire population. Choices made throughout life affect health, financial security and quality of life in the long run.
Colorado’s Revenue Crisis Impacts Older Coloradans
Colorado’s TABOR amendment was a big topic of conversation, as many citizens and advocates feel it hampers the ability to fund key programs. The current battle over the hospital provider fee loomed large. This program is expected to collect enough fees to push Colorado revenue over the TABOR limit. This will force the state to issue tax refunds and may reduce funding for key programs, including programs that support older citizens. As Colorado’s older population increases, this battle over allocation of funds will only grow, unless a better solution is not found.
Speakers underscored specific current issues facing aging Coloradans. Kelly Fritz of AARP described efforts to create a way for more Coloradans to start saving for retirement when they are young, so they can “aspire to retire”. Throughout the day speakers from the Colorado Commission on Aging, the Colorado Center on Law & Policy, the Colorado Gerontological Society and DRCOG talked about a range of issues impacting quality of life for seniors – property taxes, mobility, social security, health care costs and the cost of caregiving. Legislators who joined the group talked about the work they are doing to address these issues through legislation.
Making Your Voice Heard
Colorado has one of the fastest growing populations of older citizens in the country. The voice of older Coloradans will continue to get louder. Senior Day at the Capitol was a call to action to raise awareness of what this means – to all Coloradans.