Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan
You may not know Wally Blume, but you've probably enjoyed his ice cream.
In 2000, at age 61, the Wayland resident struck out on his own after 35 years in the dairy business. Using every asset he owned as collateral, Blume launched Denali Flavors, a marketing and licensing company that creates new ice cream and dessert concepts for independent regional dairies nationwide. The company's product lineup includes a Michigan favorite, Moose Tracks ice cream.
Today, Blume's company enjoys continued growth, with annual sales of $100 million.
Such entrepreneurial ventures typically are associated with younger talent. But the success of Blume and others of his generation underscore the need to reinvent the way we think about aging in Michigan.
That's the focus of my Special Message to the Legislature on Aging, released today.
The state's older adult population is growing rapidly. There are nearly 2 million Michigan residents age 60 and older, a 20 percent increase over the past 10 years. While this population shift will impact everyone in our state, it also provides all of us with tremendous opportunities.
Too often aging is seen as negative. This must change. Michigan has some of the best, brightest and most talented older adults. They provide our communities a valuable resource in their experience, talents and willingness to serve in a variety of ways.
Older adults have helped build, and are continuing to build, the Michigan we love today. That's why we must create a better environment for Michiganders to live healthy lifestyles, stay active and engaged, achieve financial security and maintain independence as we age.
Michiganders are living longer than at any other time in history. That's welcome news, but we can't lose sight of the need for a high quality of life. Older adults have varying levels of independence. While many are in good health, others need support to maintain their independence. That's why Michigan must become a "no wait state" for services to our older adults. This is a critical investment that deserves the support of the Legislature.
As we grow older, we share a common goal: to live independently and safely in our own homes. Everyone, including older adults, must be able to live free from abuse, neglect and exploitation. There is still more work to be done to prevent elder abuse. No one organization can stop abuse alone – we must work together to raise awareness and do our part to prevent these terrible crimes.
Older adults are also aging differently than previous generations. Changing perceptions of retirement have led older adults volunteering more, starting businesses like Wally Blume, or engaging in other enrichment activities.
Today's retirees live longer, are more active, and are more connected to their communities. For example, our youngest entrepreneurs are often highlighted for their achievement, yet older adults make up the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs. As the state plans for the future we must create more opportunities for older adults to get engaged.
Living well and aging well in our later years demands individual efforts, for sure. But it also needs a commitment from the state to partner locally, so we create an environment conducive to healthy and active aging.
By 2030, nearly one in four residents will be age 60 and older. As we prepare for the future it's clear that Michigan has more work to do. I hope today's special message sparks this critical discussion.
We will miss great opportunities if we don't support and value our older residents. Let's all commit to doing just that.