Whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican or an independent, if you’re lucky, you’re going to get old! Even if you’re young right now, your parents and grandparents will soon need to access supports and services to help them live in their homes and communities.

That’s why there is no room for partisan politics when it comes to building strong systems that help older Mainers age in place – and why a bipartisan group of legislators have formed the Legislative Caucus on Aging, the first of its kind in the nation.

Led by House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, and Sen. David Burns, R-Whiting, the Legislative Caucus on Aging has educated members on the challenges facing our older residents and promoted nearly 30 aging-related bills making their way through the legislative process. Many of these bills came out of the Maine Aging Initiative, a broad, nonpartisan effort to address some of Maine’s most serious aging demographic challenges.

Many of these bills have received unanimous support in committee and are making their way through the Maine House and Senate. Unfortunately, many of these bills, regardless of their merit, will die because neither party will find the money to fund them.

This will be a bad result at the end of an otherwise inspiring show of bipartisan unity. That’s why we’re urging the Legislature and governor to invest in building the infrastructure that will help older adults age in place right now. This investment will help us grow our economy, build stronger communities and attract younger workers. If we don’t find the will to put partisan politics aside, older adults will pay the price.

Consider these facts: Maine is the oldest state in the nation. Of the 211,000 Mainers who are 65 and older, 63,000 live alone and 78,300 are disabled. Nearly a third of Maine seniors live on Social Security as their only source of income, with an average income of just under $14,000.

Maine is also the most rural state in the country, with one of the highest rates of homeownership. Yet Maine has the eighth oldest housing stock in the country, and many older adults are living in inefficient older homes no longer suited to their needs.

While more than 90 percent of older adults want to age in their homes for as long as possible, many come to a point when they must leave their homes. However, when they try to find housing to accommodate their needs and budgets, they find none exists.

That’s because there is a shortage of 9,000 affordable-housing units needed by older adults in Maine and an average wait time of five years before an older adult can access needed affordable housing.

Maine has the third smallest working-age population in the country, with a rapidly retiring workforce. This means workers are able to move into higher-paying jobs, leaving less-attractive low-wage jobs like direct care worker positions unfilled.

Unfortunately, our direct care workforce is about to collapse unless we invest more to make these jobs competitive. This is happening at a time when more Mainers need help at home.

These facts have become a “perfect storm” for too many older Mainers.

They’re living in homes they cannot afford to maintain, repair or modify, but there is no place for them to go.

They are reliant on others for their transportation needs when they can no longer drive.

They cannot reliably secure workers to help them with their daily needs.

These older Mainers need real solutions now. They can’t wait one more year.

There is much to be done, and legislators have started the work. They have submitted bills that will:

 Fund home-repair programs.

Enhance the public transportation infrastructure.

Build new models of housing that are located in downtowns where people can walk to the services they need.

Ensure that the workers providing care to our most vulnerable adults are well-trained and well-compensated.

Protect older adults from financial exploitation.

Support our family caregivers.

All of these bills come with a price. But these are investments we must make to support older adults. These investments will also build the kinds of communities that attract younger workers to Maine.

We call upon the governor and House and Senate leaders to pause and consider the older adults struggling in their homes every day. We ask them to put partisan politics aside and find the will to make the real investments we need in housing, transportation and support services that help older adults age in place.