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Bellingham Represented at Older Adult Lobby Day

“Great to be with the folks from Bellingham Senior Center,” says Representative Soter. “After their meetings, we took them on a tour of the State House including the Grand Staircase.” Pictured, from left, are Mike Soter, Josie Dutil, Wendy Wright, Brenda Griffin, and Dave Dunbar.

By David Dunbar
Some 500 people from across Massachusetts – including a delegatioan from Bellingham – attended “Older Adult Lobby Day” last month at the State House in Boston.
It was an opportunity to hear the latest news about legislation aimed at improving the lives of older adults. They filled the Great Hall and heard reports from sponsors of the event, including AARP, The Older Adult Behavioral Health Network, Mass Home Care, Massachusetts Councils on Aging, Alzheimer’s Association, and MA Senior Action.
Attendees, after the presentations, were released to hunt down their state legislators for some verbal arm-twisting (lobbying).
“Speaking with Massachusetts legislators,” says Bellingham Senior Center Director Josie Dutil, “is something that I’m learning to be more comfortable with, and something that is necessary if our elected officials are to understand what older adults are facing in day-to-day living.”
“This is the year we make real progress on the things we care about,” explained Senator Patricia Jehlen, one of the featured speakers. “And we need your help.” She mentioned home care, assisted living, and housing as services that need particular attention.
Another speaker, Representative Thomas Stanley, added that, “We need more funding for all programs that serve older adults including adequate wages for home healthcare workers, elder nutrition, and affordable housing.”
The Massachusetts Councils on Aging is looking for an increase in the funding distributed to each Council on Aging in every city and town in the state based on the number of elders living in each municipality.
“For me,” says Bellingham COA board member Brenda Griffin, “the most impactful presentation was by the Massachusetts Councils on Aging to increase the COA Formula Grant by $1/elder (from $14 to $15/elder). Their supporting document highlighted two individuals and the COA services and programs that they received in one year. One man had 272 interactions and a woman had 429 interactions which based on the $14, resulted in a reimbursement of $.05 and $.03 per interaction.”
Griffin continues, “I have emailed our Senator Becca Rausch and Representative Mike Soter requesting their support of this bill [9110-9022 Elder Affairs FY25].”
Mass Home Care provided attendees with a script to use to contact their legislators.  It urged increased support for the Senior Nutrition Program, SHINE’s Health Benefits Counseling Program, the Elder Mental Health Outreach Team (EMHOT), and the Elder Supportive Housing Program.
According to Mass Home Care, 23% of the state’s population is aged 60 or older, and it expects that number to grow to 26% by the year 2030. It says that among these older adult households, approximately 25% have annual incomes below $20,000.
“Attending Older Adult Lobby Day had a tremendous impact on me and left me with a better understanding of all the legislative action that is taking place behind the scenes in Massachusetts,” notes Senior Center Director Dutil. “I left there feeling comforted that there are many agencies and organizations that are identifying the needs and communicating with lawmakers, and I was thrilled to be there representing one of those agencies that is doing this work.”
The Bellingham delegation included Dutil, three members of the COA board, and State Representative Mike Soter who gave the group a tour of the State House.
COA board member Wendy Wright noted, “It was obvious Mike loves the State House, so knowledgeable in all his stories. He made us all smile with the fact President Taft was such an enormous man they had to widen the front doors of the building so he could visit, and they are still the same wide doors today although seldom opened except for state functions.”
She continues, “The history is deep in the bones of this amazing building, you can feel it as you walk the mosaic tiled halls, marble stairways, brooding portraits of long past presidents and governors. I learned that artists charged by the number of limbs that are shown in their finished works (who knew?). 
“I highly recommend a trip to our State House,” concludes Wright, “to soak up the ‘magic,’ stare at the stain glass windows, glorious ceilings, and the Great Hall with all the Massachusetts’ cities and town flags. It’s magical!” 
If you have ideas about how older adults in Massachusetts can be supported, then please contact State Rep Mike Soter at (617) 722-2305 or [email protected]

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