updated March 26
“The baby boomers are coming,” Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell told the General Assembly Wednesday in an update on the state’s aging population.
With more than one-fifth of the population expected to be 62 or older by 2020, according to data shared by the Budget and Control Board, McConnell advocated community solutions and common sense legislative oversight to help meet the needs of seniors in the state. As Lt. Gov., McConnell is tasked with overseeing the Office on Aging.
Approximately half of those age 50 and older have $50,000 or less saved for retirement, according to McConnell. And many seniors plan to rely on Medicare for long-term care. But that isn’t realistic, he said. Long term care, such as assisted living and nursing homes, can cost up to $80,000 per year per person needing care. In-home care and senior centers are more cost-effective when the state has to pick up the tab. McConnell called for more of these two items.
After visiting 10 eldercare centers for his “face of aging” tour, McConnell found transportation and meals were among the keys to helping seniors stay in their homes. “We’re about keeping people independent and in their homes,” he said. Transportation is the number one issue for seniors, he said.
McConnell also cautioned against regulation at all costs. He cited an example of a reputable Oconee County nursing care facility whose wheelchair ramp needed repair. Regulators wouldn’t even let local groups supply the lumber and labor needed to fix the ramp. Verizon later donated the funds to build a $10,000 iron and concrete ramp so the facility could operate as-needed. McConnell did not name the center.
McConnell encouraged engaging the faith-based community and other volunteers to help meet the needs of the state’s seniors.
The Silver Haired Legislature, a group of 152 members statewide that makes legislative recommendations on behalf of seniors, has included in its legislative priorities transportation accessibility and funding for in-home and community services.
The address was one of McConnell’s final speeches before lawmakers. McConnell, age 66, will take over as president at his alma mater, the College of Charleston in July.