A Multisector Approach to Shaping the Future of Aging
Vermont, known for its commitment to community and quality of life, is addressing the challenges of an aging population through the innovative initiatives of Age Strong VT and the Vermont Futures Project. These programs reflect a multisector approach, recognizing that the well-being and prosperity of older adults is interconnected with broader societal and economic factors.
Age Strong VT is a Multisector Plan on Aging (MPA) that will serve as a 10-year vison and roadmap for Vermont state agencies and lawmakers, business owners, social service agencies, town and city planners, education institutions, and the healthcare industry to work together to adapt to our changing demographics and build communities where all Vermonters thrive. Age Strong VT’s goals are big. It touches on all aspects of aging well – a secure retirement, health and wellness, social connection, housing, transportation, community design, a coordinated system of services, family caregiver support, and balancing self-determination with safety and protection. In this way, Age Strong VT is building the infrastructure for Vermont to be designated as an Age-Friendly State, a state that is intentionally working to be welcoming, inclusive, and livable for all. Age-friendly communities, programs and systems not only benefit older Vermonters, but all Vermonters at all ages and stages of life.
The plan, which was developed over the last three years by the Advisory Committee and with the input of many Vermonters, is available to read at Healthvermont.gov/agestrongvt. Vermonters are welcome to share feedback on the plan by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I believe the Age Strong VT plan is an important first step in identifying collective goals to support aging well now and into the future. I am confident that we can make positive progress towards building an age-friendly state by working together towards these collective goals. So many people from different sectors came together to build this plan and see the value in moving this work forward. I am excited to begin the implementation of the plan in 2024.” – Angela Smith-Dieng, Adult Services Division Director, Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living (DAIL)
Kevin Chu, Executive Director of the Vermont Futures Project notes that the mission question of the Vermont Futures Project is, “How can we use data to support the evolution of Vermont’s economy towards a thriving future full of opportunity for all.” Not opportunity for some, or even for most – opportunity for all. It was a privilege to speak at the Age Strong VT Summit on Wednesday, November 15th to support the important multisector plan. As a data-informed organization, the Vermont Futures Project has been leading research and education efforts to encourage intentional planning for the economic impacts of an aging population. Vermont offers an early look at where the rest of the country could be headed; we can either be an example of what to do or what not to do. Our goal to grow Vermont’s population was recently featured in a New York Times story about labor force implications an aging population. With more than 35% of Vermont’s population older than 54, no state has fewer residents in prime working age. A thriving future for Vermont is one that balances the evolving needs of people already living in our state with recruitment of new talent to fill any gaps we may have.”
The objective in Age Strong VT to increase labor force participation among older Vermonters is a perfect example of how Vermont can be a national leader. It recognizes the important role of mentorship for economic development and resilience. The most productive teams often have diversity of perspectives. Beyond the economic benefits of employment, Age Strong VT recognizes that staying connected to community is one of the most important social determinants of health.
Although it’s easy to see why Vermont needs more people, we also need to tell the story that more people need Vermont! Even as a state with one of the oldest populations, Vermont consistently ranks as one of the healthiest states year after year. It’s a testament to the wonderful work that’s already been done to make Vermont such a great place to live. We can position Vermont to be the best state to grow up and grow old too – because, at the end of the day, isn’t that the goal? Don’t we all grow up hoping to live a long, healthy, and happy life? If so, then let’s age strong together here in Vermont. – Kevin Chu, Executive Director, Vermont Futures Project
The innovative collaboration and strategic vision between Age Strong VT and the Vermont Futures Project represents a synergistic effort to address the diverse needs of Vermont’s population. By combining the focus on senior well-being with a broader economic perspective, these initiatives recognize that the vitality of the state depends on the strength and resilience of all its residents.
As Age Strong VT and the Vermont Futures Project continue their collaborative efforts, Vermont is positioned to become a model for other states seeking to create a future where all generations thrive. By embracing a holistic multisector approach that prioritizes health, community, economic prosperity, and innovation, Vermont is not only addressing the challenges of today but also shaping a future where aging is synonymous with strength, vitality, and enduring contribution.
Angela Smith-Dieng and Kevin Chu contributed to this article.