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Grafton retiree seeks regionalized planning for elderly, disabled

January 05, 2011
BERLIN — On New Year's Day, the oldest members of the Baby Boom Generation turned 65, and for the next 19 years, about 10,000 people will cross that birthday threshold every day.

Just before this took place, Richard Crocker of Plymouth came before the Cos County commissioners at their Dec. 22 meeting to discuss some of the implications of this growing numbers of those turning 65-and-over, especially in Cos, Grafton, and other western counties.

Mr. Crocker, a retired employee of the state Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services (BEAS), is now a volunteer for the Grafton County Area Committee on Aging. He has become an advocate for increasing the decision-making role of the state's 10 counties without creating a big bureaucracy.

Margo Sullivan, executive director of Androscoggin Home Care Services, accompanied Mr. Crocker on his half-hour-long talk with the commissioners.

His vision, he said, is "to create a high-quality, comprehensive, coordinated, and flexible regional, community-based system of long-term supports for older adults and adults with disabilities that is person-centered, accountable, accessible, and maximizes community connection and tenure."

Mr. Crocker emphasized that now the state maintains "one-size-fits-all" policies, without recognizing that what might be most appropriate in Hillsborough County would not be so in Cos.

"Most of the control is at the state level," he said.

Mr. Crocker would like to see regional decentralization take hold at a more local level.

"Local level planning would involve creating a process to gain more credibility," Mr. Crocker explained.

The financial requirements of providing assistance to those over 65 who are in need of subsidized care is only considered at the statewide "aggregate" or combined level, without enough specific detail, he said.

Mr. Crocker encouraged the commissioners to join with others in calling for an independent economic analysis based on the demographics of each county and the likely community services that would be required as the aging population grows as a percentage of the total population.

The leading question, he predicted, would be: "Who is going to pay how much?"

Nursing homes are at the upper end of costs and chew through some 80 percent of the funds now spent on the elderly, Mr. Crocker said.

He urged that less costly care-giving support services be made more available to help the vulnerable aging population to remain in their own homes. He also emphasized the importance of volunteerism.

Mr. Crocker suggested that state legislators look into how much money is now being spend on the five companies that provide case managers, which, he said, are represented by a strong lobby.

Commission chairman Burnham "Bing" Judd said that although he agreed with much of what Mr. Crocker had to say, he believes that his presentation should be made to the 11-member county delegation of state representatives who are part of the process in Concord. In the year 2000, 18.5 percent of Cos County was 65 and older; in 2020, it is projected to be 37.2 percent, according to the N.H. Center for Public Policy Studies.

In 2000, 13.4 percent of the population in Grafton was 65 and older; in 2030, it is projected to be 31.4 percent.

In 2000, 17.8 percent of the population of Carroll 65 and over will be 17.8 percent; in 2030, 43.6 percent — the highest in the state — will fall into this age group.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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