76-year-old Minnesotan engages lawmakers on aging issues

Cary Giese remembers one moment at a forum he attended with former Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Otto.

Cary asked everyone in the room if they had long-term care insurance.

“One person – an 80-year-old woman – raised her hand. Other people asked, ‘What is that?’” Cary recalls.

It confirms what Cary has come to believe about Minnesota’s preparation for its rapidly growing senior population. “We’re absolutely not prepared,” Cary says.

As a corporate strategist by profession and active political advocate, Cary is familiar with Minnesota’s demographic trends. He has even done personal research and used it to engage with lawmakers.

In the city of Minnetrista, where Cary lives, aging is not as visible an issue as it is in other parts of Minnesota. Then one day, Cary made a discovery.

Cary began the process of trying to purchase long-term care insurance for he and his wife and was denied coverage. “I started looking into it and found out that most of the people offering it had exited the market. In the 90’s, there were 115 companies offering long-term care insurance. There’s less than 15 now.”

Eventually, Cary decided to self-insure for long-term care insurance, but realized the serious implications of this issue for aging Minnesotans. “I thought, ‘This is crazy. This is a crisis for our country,’” Cary says.

“I’ve had good conversations with policymakers,” says Cary, who has served as a delegate for the DFL party and talked with Minnesota gubernatorial candidates Erin Murphy, Tim Walz and Rebecca Otto and with Congressman Erik Paulsen. Cary would like to speak with every candidate for Minnesota governor. “I’ll go back to them and say, ‘So, what are we going to do?’”

Cary says he’s not saying he knows the answer – but it starts with awareness. “I’m just trying to think about how to think about it. We have to be thoughtful enough so it’s not just a complaint.”

Cary points out that one difficulty compounding aging in Minnesota is the dwindling availability of in-home caregivers. It used to be common for people to take older family members into their homes, but that’s not always possible these days. “It’s a massive problem and one that needs to be added to this story,” Cary says.

Minnesotans must work together to support seniors as they age and need care and services, Cary says. By 2030, one in four Minnesota adults will be age 65 or older – a constituency that political leaders shouldn’t ignore, Cary noted.

“That’s 25% of the population somebody should be worried about,” he says. “A political core of 25% is enough to get you elected president.”

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