Governmental services designed to help Tennessee's senior citizens are fragmented and are in need of thorough evaluation. That's one finding of a task force convened by Governor Bill Haslam to examine issues facing the state's aging population.
The panel also found that much of the time, caring for elderly residents falls to their relatives. Many of those caregivers also have day jobs, and told panel members that the responsibilities were overwhelming. Senior care provided by family members topped $11 billion in Tennessee, more than twelve times higher than the equivalent Medicaid spending, according to the report. The task force assessment, released Friday, recommended more support for those caregivers.
Task force members also recommended a stronger voice for state government agencies responsible for senior citizen services. The report pointed out that the oversight agency, the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability, had no seat in Governor Haslam's cabinet.
Another problem area highlighted by the task force was quality of life. The report found Tennessee's senior citizens tend to fare worse in health and well-being than the national average. To that end, the task force recommended stronger programs to promote mental health and keep elderly residents more active in their communities and in their personal lives.
Achieving the task force's goals will require buy-in from state and local governments, private companies, social welfare organizations, spiritual groups and the people of Tennessee, the report stated.
"Once these strategies are embraced," the study read, "local communities are encouraged to choose the programs and policies needed to better support the unprecedented older population in our state."
Fourteen percent of Tennessee's population is age 65 or over, higher than the national average. And that population is only expected to get bigger over time, to more than 22 percent by the year 2020, or about one in five Tennesseans.