Capitol Ideas Nov/Dec 2016

After more than four decades in public office, New York state Sen. Hugh T. Farley announced earlier this year that he would not run for re-election and would retire at the end of 2016 to spend more time with family. Farley, also Senate vice president pro tempore, was first elected to the New York Senate in 1976, making him its second longest-serving member.

By Pennsylvania state Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio
With a strong professional background in long-term care and working with older adults for more than 20 years before entering public service, I learned not to make assumptions about how people age. We all age differently. We live different lifestyles and make different choices at all points along life’s timeline, including through our 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond. It is imperative to recognize the individuality of our older constituents and not generalize or assume—you know the adage about when we assume—that their needs are the same or even similar. We can best serve our older constituents by recognizing that many are still working well into their 70s and 80s.

More than a decade ago, analysts were predicting the next big challenge for state governments: The mass retirement of baby boomers. Then the Great Recession hit and those same baby boomers stayed put, delaying retirement until more prosperous times returned. Now that the economy is on the path to recovery, baby boomers are resuming their retirement plans. “Nearly all states have 30 percent or more of their employees eligible to retire within the next five years,” said Leslie Scott, executive director of the National Association of State Personnel Executives, a CSG affiliate organization.

A generation ago, retirement meant slowing down for most older adults—spending hours on the front porch swing, working crossword puzzles and playing the occasional game of Bingo. That was then, this is now. “It’s one of the great success stories of not only our country, but around the world, that people can be expected to live 20 or 30 years beyond the age of 65,” said Nora Super, chief of programs and services at the National Association for Area Agencies on Aging, or n4a. “And with this new opportunity, people are rethinking what that means and how they want to spend their time.” Super, who previously served as executive director of the White House Conference on Aging, said a growing number of seniors are searching for, and finding, purpose in retirement through volunteerism.

The process for placing an adult under guardianship varies by state, but each branch of government plays a role in ensuring guardianship is a safe and effective mechanism for protecting individuals who can no longer make or communicate sound decisions about themselves and their property, or have become vulnerable to abuse, fraud or undue influence. Texas’ Guardianship Compliance Project was born out of this cooperative approach. The pilot project, which is funded by the Legislature and implemented by the Office of Court Administration, was launched in November 2015 to provide additional resources to courts handling guardianship cases. The goal of the project is to help courts make sound decisions in guardianship cases by reviewing current guardianships to identify reporting deficiencies, auditing annual accountings and reporting findings back to the court, and working with courts to develop best practices in managing guardianship cases.

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