By Jessica Mathews /

A man described as a non-profit entrepreneur and an advocate for senior citizen services is preparing to retire.

Jim McGuire, described as one of Michigan’s staunchest advocates for seniors, is retiring December 1st after 36 years with the Area Agency on Aging 1-B. He’s the current Director of Research, Policy Development and Advocacy and says issues for seniors relate to four basic areas that include health, housing, income and mobility.

He’s worked in each of the six counties in the region including Livingston on various issues ranging from senior transportation to senior millages. McGuire has led ad-hoc study committees, most recently one about the need to support kinship caregivers. It’s focused on the population made up of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren and looks at their struggles.

McGuire said there are a lot of areas he feels that he’s made a difference throughout his career, noting advocacy works and can make a difference if there is data-driven evidence of the need and challenge trying to be addressed. His biggest regret is related to not having any senior millage in Livingston County to provide a higher level of funding for programs.

McGuire said 73 out of Michigan’s 83 counties have county-wide senior millages and that’s generally how most are funded. He says when you look at millage counties compared to Livingston, there are lower levels of service here and the senior centers aren’t always as strong as those in neighboring communities. McGuire says he’s really advocated for those and one of his biggest regrets is not having been able to get the Board of Commissioners to consider allowing citizens to vote on if they want a millage to support senior programs to help address unmet needs.

During his nearly four decades of work on behalf of older adults in Michigan, McGuire also founded the Silver Key Coalition. It’s a group of statewide aging-services advocates that lobby for more funding for in-home care for people who are not poor enough to qualify for state aid but too poor to afford private services. McGuire says it addresses problems within the system in that if someone is very poor and has no assets in some ways they’re better off in being able to have their needs met compared to people just above eligibility.

McGuire refers to himself as an entrepreneur in a non-profit world. He was involved in creating a statewide survey for seniors in 1987. One question asked if a senior had difficulty getting to the places they needed to go and 13% said yes. McGuire said there’s actually been a lot of progress made in Southeast Michigan since then in terms of improving transportation. He noted a recent survey in the county showed that the rate went from 13% to about 6% - a testament to the success of the work being done to improve transportation with various partners such as LETS.

When it comes to his plans for his retirement, McGuire said that’s “to be determined” but he’ll always be interested in the field of aging. McGuire will be retiring on December 1st and be succeeded in his role by Katie Wendell. More on his legacy is attached.

The full interview with McGuire will be featured on WHMI’s Viewpoint program this Sunday, November 28th at 8:30am.