Political and civic leaders from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont will gather Tuesday in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for the region’s first round-table meeting to address challenges related to its aging population.

About 150 people, including service providers, policymakers and business leaders, are expected to attend the daylong conference at the Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside Hotel.

Northern New England has the nation’s oldest population based on median age, according to the U.S. Census. Maine leads at 44 years, in part because the state also has a dwindling younger population. Vermont’s median age is second-highest at 42.5 years, followed by New Hampshire at 42.3 years.

The conference was organized to promote regional partnerships and community-based programs that would help older adults age in place, said Jess Maurer, executive director of the Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging and co-chairwoman of the Maine Council on Aging.

If successful, a regional effort to help seniors live independently longer could become a national model, Maurer said.

The meeting was convened by the Maine Council on Aging, which is sponsored by the John T. Gorman Foundation, and the Endowment for Health, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to improving the health of New Hampshire residents. Participants include the AARP chapter from each state and several other agencies, foundations and aging-research centers.

The keynote speaker will be Maine House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, who will talk about recent efforts to address aging issues in Maine, which also has the nation’s highest proportion of baby boomers – 29 percent – and the second-highest proportion of people 65 and older – 17.8 percent – following Florida’s 18.6 percent.

Eves and the council hosted a statewide summit in January that attracted more than 370 people and identified growing needs in senior housing, health care, workforce development and family care-giving. After the summit, the council released a “Blueprint for Action on Aging,” which recommended a variety of policy and funding changes.

Working groups continue to consider related policy initiatives, and Eves is developing KeepME Home legislative proposals that aim to increase affordable housing options, property tax credits and home care services for seniors.

Tuesday’s first morning session will focus on the economic impacts of an aging population. Panelists will be Charles Colgan, former state economist and professor at the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine; Ken Jones, economic research analyst for the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development; and Steve Norton, executive director of the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies.

In the second morning session, another expert panel will discuss promising community-based solutions across the region. Afternoon breakout groups will examine individual aging issues in depth.


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