In an effort to keep Rhode Island policy relevant to the state’s aging population, Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown) has introduced legislation aimed at addressing “Aging In the Community.”

Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown)

“In the next 10 years, the 65-plus population in Rhode Island will increase from 152,000 to 247,000 with one out of every four Rhode Islanders aged 65 and over,” explained Representative Ruggiero. “As demographics shift in Rhode Island, we need to make senior policy issues a priority and focus on the programs and services needed for seniors in the years ahead.  As George Burns said, ‘Growing old doesn’t mean you have to get old.’  That’s why we need to work on establishing Age Friendly Communities. These are communities where all sectors — business community, government, and faith — are responsive to seniors and collaborate on what’s important for them in the community, such as transportation, housing affordability and food security.”

The first bill (2017-H 5251) would establish a community senior services grant program to provide financial assistance to municipalities and nonprofit organizations that operate senior centers and/or senior programs.

The grant program would provide financial assistance and incentives to local governments and nonprofit agencies to operate senior centers and other senior services programs that help older residents to remain living in the community. Such services may include outreach, social services, health promotion, physical fitness, recreation, life-long learning, transportation assistance and caregiver support services for persons age 65 and older.

The bill, which is cosponsored by Representatives Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), Evan Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick), Kathleen A. Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown) and Carlos E. Tobon (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket), has been referred to the House Finance Committee.

Representative Ruggiero has also introduced a resolution (2017-H 5294) that would ask the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority to conduct a comprehensive Elder Mobility Study to examine the mobility needs of the state’s elderly population as part of the authority’s plan for the development of a revised coordinated human services transit plan.

Specifically, the plan would recognize the significant projected increase in persons age 65 and over, identify gaps in current state transit programs for seniors, identify the best practices for more responsive senior transit program, and available transportation options to include ride share programs, volunteer programs, and the estimated needed resources to help meet the projected demand.

“Transportation is one of the most important concerns of our older citizens,” said Representative Ruggiero. “Friends, family and neighbors aren’t always available to provide transportation, and that has an enormous impact on the quality of life for our over-65 population. And the state needs to develop and fund an affordable and accessible public transportation system to assist older Rhode Islanders with their peculiar transportation needs.”

The resolution, which is cosponsored by Representatives Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73 (Newport, Middletown), David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston), Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) and Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), has been referred to the House Finance Committee.

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Ryan Belmore has been the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp since 2012. He also currently works for Mountain News, where he serves as Senior Editor - North America for OnTheSnow. He previously worked for the New England Patriots and American Cancer Society. He currently serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).