In Louisiana, if you are a bird, roadway, prisoner, pine tree or soybean, you have a professionally staffed department looking after your welfare. If you are over 60 years of age, however, you are blended into the Governor’s Office, along with matters pertaining to renewal communities, press and the governor’s schedule.

While all of these are important, so are matters that affect Louisiana’s elder population, their families and the communities where they work and live.

In fact, with Louisiana’s elder population now making up nearly 20 percent of Louisiana’s population, the need for a clear and singular focus is greater than ever and will increase as that proportion grows to 25 percent over the next decade.

On the Nov. 4 ballot, Louisiana voters will have the opportunity to vote in favor of a constitutional amendment that will pave the way for the creation of a 21st department, the Department of Elderly Affairs. It’s proposal 11 on the ballot.

The new department is not an expansion of government but a realignment of existing resources and funding but with a clear focus on Louisiana’s elderly. It does not redirect resources for any other class of citizens but will simply realign existing funding for a clearer purpose. In fact, the new department may well bring in net new dollars as a focus on elderly is elevated to priority in Louisiana. Its no accident that states like Florida and Arizona that focus on elderly have such a concentration of retirees who bring with them significant wealth, talent and resources.

Creating this department is morally, ethically and fiscally the responsible thing to do. Our elderly are net contributors to our state and have delivered to us a state that is rising economically, educationally and in its quality of life.

Elder issues affect us all not just those over 60. Services to the elderly also provide the support to allow working age Louisianians to work, provide longer quality of life to keep our elder citizens in their homes, requiring fewer services for acute or long-term care and contribute to the overall health and welfare of our communities.

The time has come for a department solely dedicated to Louisiana’s seniors and we encourage all of Louisiana to consider what the creation of a Department of Elderly Affairs can mean for our state. Information is available online at voteprop11.org.

Rene Rhodes

chairman, Seniors First

Houma