Poll of older Mainers shows concerns over ability to stay at home

A poll released today by AARP asked 2,000 Maine voters over the age of 50 about a number of issues affecting their lives and their choices of candidates for Maine State and Congressional elections.

One of the areas of top concern, right below access to affordable prescription drug coverage, was helping seniors to stay in their own homes as they age. 79% of respondents said they were very or extremely likely to vote for a candidate who would work on “ensuring Mainers can afford to stay in their homes as they grow older.”

Promoting “aging in place,” as its known in demographic policy circles, is a crucially important goal for state lawmakers, as Maine has a rapidly aging population and the highest median age of any state in the country. Allowing seniors to stay in their own homes could lead to better quality of life for older Mainers as well as lower costs for the state.

Despite their general concerns, 65.5% of survey respondents reported that they were very or extremely confident of being able to stay in their current residence without “major modifications.”

Lower-income Mainers and women were significantly more likely than wealthier respondents and men to say that being able to stay in their own homes was of top importance.

Although majorities of Mainers of all political parties expressed concerns about seniors being able to stay at home, there was a definite partisan divide. 88% of Democrats, 72% of independents and 55% of Republicans identified the issue as a top priority.

One of the leading voices on this issue has been Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves, who has held a series of roundtables on aging across the state over the past two years and says he plans to propose “significant” policy changes during the next legislative session to help older Mainers to stay in their homes.

“We must overhaul how we think about caring for our seniors to ensure they can stay in their homes and communities longer,” said Eves in response to the survey findings. “We must improve resources like transportation and in-home care that can help seniors live in their own homes longer and begin to move toward aging-friendly communities.”

The entire poll is an interesting read. It touches on other issues including health care, transportation and consumer protections against fraud and the responses may be particularly relevant to this year’s election. Older Mainers vote at a higher rate than other demographic groups, an effect that’s especially pronounced in non-presidential years.

The poll was conducted over 11 days in May of this year and was weighted for age and gender to Maine’s registered voter population over the age of 50. It has a statistical margin of error of +/- 2.2 percent, 95 times out of 100.

Mike Tipping

About Mike Tipping

Mike is Maine's longest-writing political blogger and explores state politics and policy with a focus on analysis and explanation. He works at the Maine People's Alliance and Maine People's Resource Center.