TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg to require the state Department of Human Services to use and update the NJ Elder Index – information related to the state’s aging population – in an effort to assist the state in developing and advancing policies that will allow residents to age in place, was signed into law today by the governor.
“It is one of our most important responsibilities to ensure that residents have the resources they need to age in place with dignity. Examining the economic issues facing our older residents on a continuing basis is critical to this effort,” said Senator Weinberg. “Having current data and information will allow us to ensure that our policies reflect the needs of our aging population, and that we are effectively delivering the programs and services that assist these individuals. It will also allow the state to plan responsibly for the future.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, New Jersey’s elderly population (age 65 and over) is projected to increase by 27.2 percent between 2010 and 2020. A major public policy concern for New Jersey as the baby boom generation ages into retirement is the potential burden an aging society will place on the care-giving system and public finances.
This law (S2231) will require the Department of Human Services (DHS) to utilize the New Jersey Elder Economic Security Standard Index (NJ Elder Index) to improve the coordination and delivery of public benefits and services to older adults residing in the State and as a planning tool to allocate public resources more efficiently. It further requires DHS to update the NJ Elder Index annually using the most recent publicly available data on the costs to live in each county of the State. The NJ Elder Index is designed to examine what elder adults and elder couples need in order to age in place with dignity. It measures the income older adults require to make ends meet and to remain in their own homes.
The NJ Elder Index was developed by the Gerontology Institute at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston in cooperation with Wider Opportunities for Women. DHS and the county offices on aging currently use the Index as a tool for evaluation and policy development.
The law takes effect immediately.