As the fastest-aging state in nation, Michigan joins national AARP effort

By: - October 7, 2019 11:15 am

Rita Schwenk, 71, holds up medication which she receives under the Medicare prescription drug benefit program. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced on Monday that Michigan is the fifth state to join the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States to help address the state’s aging demographics. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer | Derek Robertson

“Active aging is a lifelong process and making communities more age-friendly is a common-sense policy approach for responding to demographic aging,” Whitmer said. “I look forward to continuing to work with (AARP) on behalf of our residents to ensure that Michigan is a leader among states in health and active aging for all.”

The AARP Network of Age-Friendly States is the U.S. affiliate of the World Health Organization (WHO), an international effort to help cities and states prepare for rapid demographic changes and ensure the trend of urbanization is accommodating for all ages.

Whitmer made the announcement to public officials, municipal planners, health care professionals and concerned citizens at the AARP Michigan Age-Friendly State and Communities Conference in Lansing.

In Michigan, 37% of the population are residents 50 years and older. By 2020, the percentage of Michiganders age 65 and older will be greater than 1 in 5, which is 10 years ahead of the national projection. By 2025, Michigan will have more residents over the age of 65 than those younger than 18. 

The United States population is following a similar trend, but according to the AARP, Michigan is aging faster than any state in the nation.

“It’s critical that Michigan takes steps now to make sure communities are ready to meet the needs of all ages as the population shifts,” said Paula Cunningham, state director of AARP Michigan. “We’re talking about everything from walkable downtowns and opportunities for work and volunteering, to access to health care, housing and transportation options. We want to help make Michigan the best state it can be.”

Whitmer says her greatest concerns regarding aging in Michigan are mobility and access to medical attention. 

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Eight Michigan communities have already joined the Age-Friendly Network, including Auburn Hills, East Lansing, Grand Rapids, Highland Park, Jackson, Lansing, Royal Oak and Southfield. 

Michigan is the first state in the Midwest to join the AARP Network of Age-Friendly State. Other states a part of the network are Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts and New York. 

After a long-winded budget process for the upcoming year, Whitmer said her “first and foremost job is public safety and public health.”

After budget drama, Whitmer outlines areas for compromise before meeting with GOP leaders

Whitmer signed the Fiscal Year 2020 state budget last week, which included line-item vetoes totaling almost $1 billion of the $59.9 billion budget, and shifted $625 million within state departments. She was asked by reporters about how continuing budget negotiations are going with GOP leaders, who have blasted her cuts.

“Did everything go perfectly? I mean, I think this is an unprecedented time,” she said. “I think that conversation is going to continue. Obviously, we are going to continue to have meetings. I think some of the policy work that we’re going to do together will help reestablish some trust.”

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue is a former Michigan Advance reporter who covered education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.