Opinion: Older Californians Need Support to Age at Home. Funding it Is Critical

Photo by PeopleImages/iStock

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recently released budget proposal for the 2025-26 fiscal year aims to address a $27.6 billion deficit, in part by cutting aging and disability-focused programs. This approach to balancing the budget threatens progress made under California’s Master Plan for Aging — a 10-year blueprint to guide policy, program, and funding decisions to support aging well in California. The proposed cuts disproportionately impact communities of color, people with lower incomes and undocumented immigrants, and therefore undermine the state’s commitment to health equity. 

The legislative budget committees have rejected many of the cuts and found other places to reduce the deficit. Committing to health equity means giving everyone the opportunity to attain their health and well-being goals, regardless of historical and ongoing discrimination and structural barriers.

The SCAN Foundation acknowledges that California, through the Master Plan on Aging, has led the nation in recognizing the unique and increasingly urgent needs of older adults. By 2030, 10.3 million Californians will be age 60 or older, half of them people of color. Priorities set forth in the master plan, which was informed and supported by aging and disability stakeholders, are intended to guide improvements to California’s long-term services and supports system for older adults and people with disabilities, regardless of the state’s budgetary condition. These services include things like in-home help with bathing, cooking and other activities of daily living; transportation to doctors appointments; and access to day centers in the community. As more states and the federal government consider creating their own master plans, California’s progress serves as a critical model.

Proposed cuts risk widening inequities

Given the choice, most older adults would prefer to remain at home and in their communities. However, unaffordable care and housing present barriers to doing so. We’ve heard firsthand from older adults, people with disabilities and family caregivers about the challenges in accessing long-term services and supports, affordable housing and behavioral health services. We learned that many people feel left behind by the system, especially those from marginalized communities.

The state has made progress to strengthen long-term services and supports for older adults and people with disabilities, including expanding Medi-Cal coverage to undocumented immigrants. Unfortunately, the proposed elimination of caregiving services for undocumented immigrants through the In-Home Supportive Services program undermines that progress. This is one proposal that the legislature has rejected.

With rising housing costs, older Californians on limited incomes are at risk of homelessness, which can impact their access to services and supports designed to keep them in their homes. Six out of 10 older renter households in California are struggling to afford their housing. Low-income older adults, who are disproportionately people of color, spend over half of their income on rent. The proposed cuts to the Home Safe and the Housing and Disability Advocacy Programs – two of the only homelessness prevention programs specifically focused on older adults and people with disabilities – are alarming, especially now when older adults are the fastest growing homeless population

California should not go backward

Although more people now recognize the gaps in our health care system, there is considerable work ahead. It’s vital that we do not go backward during this budget shortfall. While we recognize that difficult decisions must be made, the proposed cuts will only exacerbate the challenges and stressors people face in accessing necessary services. Historical investments in long-term services and supports and aging services must be preserved while strategizing ways to strengthen the system, now and in the future.

The SCAN Foundation remains committed to ensuring all older Californians can access the services necessary to age well in the community. While core programs were preserved, the proposed cuts risk furthering inequities in homelessness of older adults and people with disabilities, as well as access to LTSS and behavioral health services. We urge Gov. Newsom to consider the disproportionate impacts on older Californians and to come together with advocates and stakeholders to develop a set of solutions that enable everyone to age well and with purpose.

Sarita A. Mohanty is the president and CEO of The SCAN Foundation and a member of the state’s Implementing the MPA In California Together (IMPACT) Stakeholder Committee.  

Megan Burke is program officer for policy and advocacy at The SCAN Foundation and a member of the state’s Disability and Aging Community Living Advisory Committee.

X Close

Subscribe to Our Mailing List