Opinion: Department of Elder Affairs Secretary an Important Appointment to Governor's Cabinet
The Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida applauds Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' selection of Richard Prudom as Secretary for the Florida Department of Elder Affairs. We welcome Secretary Prudom as our valued partner and statewide leader.
Secretary Prudom has more than 30 years in executive leadership with the State of Florida where he has worked to develop, implement, and lead public policies and programs that improve the lives of Florida families. Since 2011, he has served at the Department of Elder Affairs as Deputy Secretary, Chief of Staff, and Chief Financial Officer.
With his appointment comes an opportunity to share information about the work being done at the state and local levels to support our aging population in Florida.
Florida is the third largest state by population and has the highest percentage of residents age 65 and older. The number of older adults will increase by 38 percent over the next 10 years. This increase will have an avalanche effect affecting Florida families, caregivers in the workplace, transportation, access to senior support programs and services, delivery of health care, community living, and so much more.
A variety of initiatives are being examined and implemented by the Department of Elder Affairs such as working alongside AARP to make Florida the first Age-Friendly State through a network of Livable Communities that focus on tackling and embracing the challenges that an aging population creates. The Dementia Care and Cure Initiative (DCCI) has been launched in 10 Florida cities to address the dramatic increase dementia and related disorders will have on communities. Most importantly, the Department relies on the work of the Area Agencies on Aging and the Aging & Disability Resource Centers to zero in on local and regional aging issues.
Here in Southwest Florida, the Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida (AAASWFL) is the state's designated Aging & Disability Resource Center for our seven-county region. We are funded by the DOEA and the federal Older Americans Act to implement programs and services offered in our community. Our agency is committed to connecting adults age 60 and over and people with disabilities to resources and assistance for living safely with independence and dignity.
AAASWFL has fulfilled this responsibility to our community for 40 years. In 2018, more than 73,000 older adults, adults with disabilities, caregivers, and other citizens reached out to our agency's Elder Helpline for information about aging and disability issues and referrals to local programs. Many of those callers were seeking the government-funded resources made available through our work with the DEOA—and the number of callers searching for this kind of assistance grows every year.
The aging issues that face state legislators and our community leaders will only continue to grow in both size and complexity. Southwest Florida has 644,000 adults aged 60 or over. Our elders represent more than 36% off our region's population, and that number is growing. Aging and disability issues affect—and will continue to affect-- our families, communities, and businesses. When you need assistance with these issues, contact us by calling the Helpline at 866-413-5337 or by visiting our website: http://www.aaaswfl.org.
On behalf of all of the state's Area Agencies on Aging, we welcome Secretary Prudom as our valued partner and leader as we pursue our collective goal of helping all of Florida's seniors remain healthy, safe, and independent.
President & CEO
Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida