A tsunami resulting from the rupture of the Cascadia Subduction Zone may or may not impact us in our lifetimes. The so-called Silver Tsunami, however, reached Ashland far earlier than in the nation, the state and even the county. We are not prepared.
Poor elder care affects not just older individuals. Family resources become strained supporting parents and grandparents. Employers lose workers and productivity decreases. Our taxes fund Medicaid long-term care.
Farsighted local and state leaders recognized these emergent problems back in the mid '70s.
The city of Ashland initiated the Ashland Senior Program to support frail and low-income elderly at risk of institutionalization to enable independent living at home.
At the state level, Oregon began to decouple Medicaid funding from nursing home care, then the only option regardless of the level of care needed. Oregon negotiated a waiver with the federal government to direct money from the Older Americans Act for home- and community-based care.
This brings us to the present situation with the Ashland Senior Program. It has served many through hosting the meals program, expert navigation to supports, social connections and recreational opportunities while creating an atmosphere of genuine warmth. As structured and funded, however, this program would not have been able to serve increasing numbers of older adults with more complex needs or to prevent or delay the development of need through additional programs. The process of restructuring has been rocky, to say the least, but includes strong citizen participation.
There are challenges ahead in considering the extent to which the community is willing to support its aging citizens. Unchecked, the trends described could lead to stark public evidence of the consequences of frailty and poverty: more grandparents among the numbers of the homeless in the Plaza. Or there could be an exodus of elders from our community. At least for now, these citizens have had the means to support the local economy and volunteer in and donate to our organizations. Younger adults find themselves with debt-to-income ratios that disqualify them for a mortgage. With a glut of houses, prices might decline, but so would property tax revenues.
We are not without resources:
A framework is needed to mobilize these resources in an intentional, collaborative and strategic fashion. The question is whether the city of Ashland, either directly or through its Parks and Recreation program, will use our tax dollars to connect these resources through a restructured Ashland Senior Program.
— Anne Bellegia is a member of the Ashland Senior Program Ad Hoc Committee. Email her at email@example.com.