While most states anticipate their older adult populations to double over the next 20 years, Alaska tops the national charts in growth rate over the last 10 years: Alaska saw a 52.1 percent increase in its age 65 and older population in the decade from 1999 through 2009, a growth rate more than 3-1/2 times the national growth rate of 14.6 percent. This new state plan, done in compliance with the Older Americans Act, sets forth how Alaska will manage providing services to its expanding older adult population, despite the unique challenges of its geography and climate.
For example, the suicide rate for Alaskan older adults is 45 percent higher than for older adults nationwide. While reasons for the higher rates of suicide are not completely known, there is some evidence that colder, darker northern climates are more conducive to depression, and it may be difficult for older adults to access behavioral health care, such as treatment for depression, in many Alaskan communities.
The plan is designed to deliver on a well-articulated goal of the Alaska Commission on Aging: “The Alaska State Plan for Senior Services FY 2012-2015 builds on strong partnerships to provide high‐quality, respectful, culturally‐sensitive support services for older Alaskans to live healthy, independent, and productive lives in the place and manner of their choosing.” Not many state plans are able to sum up their mission as clearly or succinctly.
In addition, rather than only repeat the language required from the Older Americans Act, Alaska states 12 “guiding principles” that inform all planning (pages 1-3). It is a thorough list and worth emulating. Overall, the plan itself sticks to the requirements of the Older Americans Act, until page 32 when it lays out Alaska’s state goals and strategies.
Some of the plan highlights include:
- Create a Health Promotion, Disease Prevention (HPDP) network in which information about existing activities can be shared by partner organizations (such as, for example, the Division of Behavioral Health, Division of Public Health, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, and the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority).
- Support seniors in or re‐entering the workforce by providing specialized case management, adaptive skill training, assistive technology for those with disabilities job search assistance, appropriate job training, and placement through the MASST (Mature Alaskans Seeking Skills Training) program.
- Support Alaska’s Aging & Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) to become fully functional in all core ADRC components: Information, Referral and Awareness, Options Counseling and Assistance, Person‐Centered Transition Support, Streamlined Eligibility Determination for Public Programs, Consumer Populations, Partnerships and Stakeholder Involvement, and Quality Assurance and Continuous Improvement.
Starting on page 45, the plan presents detailed performance measurements for each specific tactic. Such specificity is not found in many other aging plans.
How to Use
Alaska’s large Baby Boomer population living in rural areas means a shortage of doctors and nurses in the future. The challenge is not one of affluence, but of the provision of services. Knowing which services to make available to whom is the dilemma of every community planner and local government. In most state plans, services are proffered for the old and poor (meal plans, transportation needs, etc.). But even in the best of economic climates, basic services like having enough doctors per capita will be impacted by an aging demographic.
View full report: Alaska State Plan Aging – 2011-2015 (PDF – 18.6 MB)