Yes, there are big challenges ahead, but as we look toward 2011, we can’t let the past get in our eyes. We have to look at things much differently. We have to create change.
- We must help people adapt their individual behaviors to reflect increased longevity and productivity,
- We must change our social structures and our communities to meet the needs of an aging population that seeks to remain in their homes and communities as long as they reasonably can, and
- We must advocate — to update and sustain government programs that assist the elderly and the disadvantaged by guaranteeing a basic level of health care and economic security and help to fund needed services.
As leaders and activists in the aging community, we must lead the nation in achieving these important changes.
So, when someone looks at the aging of society and says, "America, we have a problem." We must stand up and say, "America, we have some answers."
At AARP, we have created a Ten-Year Social Impact Agenda. It is among your handouts. The goal is that "People 50+ will have independence, choice, and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable for them and society as a whole." So there are two sides to the goal: the quality of life for older people, and the sustainability for society and all its generations. To achieve this goal, we are focused on five priority areas:
- Economic Security
- Health and Supportive Services
- Livable Communities
- Global Aging, and
At the very top is Social Security. For Americans to have economic security as they get older, they must be able to rely on a Social Security system that is solvent for the long term and that maintains a guaranteed benefit and income protection features. We need to generate stronger public support for Social Security improvements and to enact legislation to make Social Security stronger.
This will be an issue in the upcoming election, and our next President and the Congress will face increasing pressures to deal with it. We have to make sure that it’s done right.
Another important aspect of economic security for the 50+ population is continued earnings from work. Many boomers and older employees say that they want to continue working beyond traditional retirement age—some because they want to, and some because they have to. In fact, this has already begun. We must ensure that those who want to remain in the workforce have the opportunity to do so. We believe we can be a catalyst in this important social change.
It includes leading in the fight against age discrimination in the workplace to reduce unfair and discriminatory treatment of workers 50-plus.
We’re also reaching out to corporate America through our program that recognizes the Best Employers for People 50 and Older, to encourage companies to adopt policies and practices that afford workers more and better workplace options.
And, through our Senior Community Service Employment Program and partnerships like the one we formed earlier this year with The Home Depot—we’re helping underserved populations obtain employment.
For most Americans, an economically secure retirement is based on accumulating and effectively managing adequate retirement assets. So we need to protect, and where possible, expand pensions and retirement savings.
We also have to help individuals manage financial decisions better and make sure that consumers are protected from financial fraud and abuse that can erode retirement savings and financial assets.