Maryland Secretary of the Department of Aging Carmel Roques took a tour of Upper Shore Aging’s facilities while also providing a public forum for a discussion on aging issues facing seniors across the state and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Secretary Roques reminded participants at the gathering at Talbot County Senior Center at Brooklett’s Place in Easton that she wasn’t a politician, but rather had worked a long career in the private sector. She stated, “I was absolutely honored to be asked to serve in this role. I have many years centering my life around caring for older people, their families, and their care providers. And so, you know, I’ve had the privilege of serving as a licensed clinical social worker, doing direct therapy and care management of older people.”
“Maryland is a long-lived society. Half of the five-year-olds alive today will expect to live to 100. We need to begin to shape our policies and services around that. They will sit under the trees that we plant but that will never see.”
Photo: Left to right – Chuck Callahan, President of the Talbot County Council; Childlene Brooks, Manager of Brooklett’s Place; Maryland Secretary of the Department of Aging Carmel Roques; and Andy Hollis, Executive Director of Upper Shore Aging.
According to Secretary Roques, the Maryland Department of Aging is a $90 million agency comprised of federal and state funding. When she arrived, the agency had 40 full-time employees but was operating at a 30 percent vacancy rate. The agency oversees 19 area agencies on aging and Upper Shore Aging is one of them.
Andy Hollis, Executive Director of Upper Shore Aging hosted the Secretary’s visit, which included seeing the Caroline Senior Center in Denton and Amy Lynn Ferris Adult Activity Center in Chestertown. He added, “Secretary Roques’ visit underscored the critical importance of Upper Shore Aging’s partnership with the Maryland Department of Aging. Upper Shore provides senior services on behalf of three counties, and the Secretary’s remarks about her vision for the department, and her focus on bettering the lives of our state’s seniors, will serve the citizens of Caroline, Kent, and Talbot Counties well. She has worked in the field for decades and knows the challenges that lie ahead. Her comments expressing her commitment to meeting those challenges and overcoming them was inspirational.”
Among the issues raised by participants at the discussion at Brooklett’s Place were affordable housing and long-term care, food insecurity among seniors, the need for gap-filling services like adult day care, and transportation.
Secretary Roques added that nationally, the United States hasn’t made a commitment to long-term care and that moving forward recommendations for improving nursing homes are needed as they are closing around the country due to not being as profitable as they used to be.
“Older Americans are healthier than previous generations and living long enough to outlive their resources and require complex supportive care, but more people are choosing assisted living or staying at home because they can’t afford private pay at these facilities,” she explained.
“Under 3% of the housing in this country is assessable for older adults with disabilities.”
In looking toward the future, Secretary Roques explained that the new Governor is setting in motion a couple of initiatives – the biggest one being a multi-sector planning process, which involves cabinet-level leaders working together to better use state or federal funds to solve some of these problems and issues, as well as working with each other to influence policy across these issues.
Upper Shore Aging, Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that is the designated Area Agency on Aging for Talbot, Caroline, and Kent counties, Maryland, serving a potential market of nearly 31,000 persons over the age of sixty years. Our organization develops and manages a coordinated program of services that work together to help elders to remain, and live well, in the community as long as possible. Upper Shore Aging, Inc. works closely with the Maryland Department of Aging to serve the needs of its clients.