By Regina Salmi Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan On May 16, 2018, more than a thousand of Michigan’s senior advocates and allies will gather on the lawn of the Capitol in Lansing. This free event is an opportunity for older adults to meet with their legislators over lunch on the lawn to discuss a platform of issues that affect seniors in Michigan. This year marks the 10th annual Older Michiganians Day and any and all seniors interested are encouraged to attend. If you’ve never been involved in advocacy before, Older Michiganians Day is a great way to begin. This year’s platform focuses on four areas to improve services for older adults in the state of Michigan: preserving and protecting MI Choice, supporting AAASA in-home services, supporting the direct care workforce and preventing elder abuse. The MI Choice Medicaid Waiver Program helps Michigan’s older adults and adults living with a disability by providing the services necessary to live independently in their communities. Costing less than half of what a Medicaid-funded nursing facility costs, MI Choice saves taxpayers’ money. MI Choice currently serves approximately 15,000 people with about 3,200 currently on the waiting list for services. These services are administered through Area Agencies on Aging. Changes to how Medicaid services are delivered could have a detrimental effect on the services available to seniors. Senior advocates are requesting that the MI Choice program and the role Area Agencies fulfill in the oversight, administration and delivery of these services be preserved. Advocates support the Silver Key Coalition’s request for a $3 million budget increase to in-home services, forwarding the goal of making Michigan a “no wait state” for senior services. There are currently more than 6,000 seniors waiting for in-home services, like homemaker services, home-delivered meals, care management services and personal care. Research shows seniors who receive these services are five times less likely to have been in a nursing home than those who stayed on a wait list. Reducing the wait list times by increasing funding for services will help more seniors remain in their homes as they age. Since 2014, wait lists for home-delivered meals have been cut in half thanks to previous investment in services for seniors. Providing services for older and disabled adults in Michigan has become hampered by the instability of the direct care workforce. The median income of a direct care worker is $10,000. While wages in other service industries are increasing, direct care wages have remained stagnant, making it difficult for agencies to hire and keep enough workers to provide care. Advocates support policies that recruit, train and provide adequate wages and call for the inclusion of direct care workers in Michigan talent development initiatives, in order to build a sustainable support system for senior services throughout Michigan. Approximately 125, 000 seniors are victims of elder abuse and fraud every year in Michigan. Advocates at Older Michiganians Day will be letting legislators know they support of adequate funding for elder abuse prevention programs and policies. It is important to protect Michigan’s seniors from physical, psychological, and financial abuse. Older Michigangians Day is an opportunity for Michigan seniors to speak with a united voice about the issues that directly affect them. It is also an opportunity to meet new people and enjoy a beautiful day in our State’s capitol. If you’re interested in attending, you can call Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan to register for a ticket to attend the event at (888) 456-5664. While the event is free, your ticket provides you with a complimentary lunch. You must register in advance to take advantage of the lunch. If you live in the Grand Rapids area, you also can ask about transportation to Older Michiganians Day. Courtesy of AARP, Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan is chartering a bus to Lansing. Seats are limited and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. If you plan to make your own way to Lansing, visit the Older Michiganians Day website for more details and parking information: oldermichiganiansday.com/home.