Governor To Address Aging Population

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Arizona's demographics are changing; the state is aging.

According to Melanie Starns, the governor's policy adviser, in 15 years, the state's demographics will have shifted significantly with 26 percent of all Arizonans being age 65 or older.

Starns said this shift is more than a slight change in demographics and it has the potential to impact the culture of Arizona.

Gov. Janet Napolitano has issued an executive order called Aging 2020 in response to the change.

"We don't want to be caught unprepared," Starns said.

Aging 2020 requires the government to begin planning for future programs and services that will meet the aging population's needs and demands.

"It is impossible for Arizona state agencies or any one organization or institution to adequately prepare our communities for the changes that will occur as a result of an increased older population," a statement released by the governor's office reported.

State agencies have already taken part in the new initiative by developing plans to strengthen the state's social infrastructure for Aging 2020.

The preliminary plans answered questions about each agency's "policy issues, direction and program considerations."

Along with the various government agencies, the Office of the Attorney General and the Arizona Board of Regents will be lending a hand to the new project.

As another part of the program, meetings are being held throughout the state with community leaders and members; one such meeting will be held, by invitation only, at 9 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 25 at the Gila Community College, Payson campus, 201 Mud Springs Road.

The statement added, "these forums provide local stakeholders with the opportunity to provide input into this statewide planning process and help ensure that future development of aging services is responsive to the ideas, values and needs of your community."

The information collected at the forums will be noted and given to the governor's office for use in the overall planning.

About 25 forums, lasting two hours, will be held.

"I think what we want communities to understand is that the age in population isn't all doom and gloom," Starns said. "There are some real opportunities with aging as well ... there is more time for volunteerism."

Those not invited to attend the forums can give their own input by visiting www.azdes.gov/gaca/.

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