Aging News state legislation

Gov Healey Files Legislation to Rename EO of Elder Affairs

The Healey-Driscoll Administration filed legislation Senate Bill 2797 to rename the Executive Office of Elder Affairs to the Executive Office of Aging & Independence to better represent and reflect the values of older adults in Massachusetts.

Hearing on Legislation, June 26, 2024

The Statehouse News reported on the hearing: Mixed Review For Elder Affairs Name Change (pdf).

Paul Lanzikos, co-founder of Dignity Alliance Massachusetts and a former elders affairs secretary in the Dukakis administration, Lanzikos urged lawmakers to think more broadly about reshaping the work of the office.

“There was a time when the executive office was viewed as one of the preeminent state agencies in the country focused on the needs and interests of older adults,” Lanzikos said. “While properly seen today as a very competent line agency — and it is, and it has a very vital role — its role as a significant participant in public policymaking at the Cabinet-level in a range of critical areas, such as you’ve already indicated, Mr. Chairman, housing, transportation, economic development, workforce and the like has diminished.”

Governor’s Message on Legislation, May 28, 2024

The proposed name change is part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to expand its reach and ensure older people throughout Massachusetts can access needed information, services, and support through every stage of aging.  

The name was selected following significant research that included focus groups, surveys, and conversations with older adults, caregivers, service providers, and advocacy organizations. This research revealed that aging adults do not connect with the term “elder,” and often associate the term with someone who is at the end of their life. Instead, residents prefer neutral terms such as “aging” and “older people.” Additionally, research showed older adults deeply value the ability to maintain their independence through the aging journey. From these findings, the agency developed a new name to more accurately reflect its programs and services, and better connect with eligible adults.

“The Executive Office of Elder Affairs was established more than 50 years ago and was one of the nation’s first state agencies dedicated to addressing the needs of older people,” said Governor Maura Healey. “Today, the agency has evolved to offer programs and services that support 1.7 million older residents and nearly 1 million family caregivers. Our administration is committed to meeting the changing needs of today’s older adults, and I am thrilled that this name change better reflects those that we serve.” 

In addition, the legislation replaces outdated language across state statutes, such as “elder,” “elderly person(s),” and “handicapped” with “older adult(s)” and “adult with a disability.” The new legislation also incorporates gender-neutral language.