One other aspect of retirement security is to ensure that older Americans have access to affordable, quality utility services. This is a big issue at the state level, as many utilities are deregulated and costs rise.
As we look at how the boomers are aging, one of the alarming trends we see is the growing disparity between the "haves" and the "have nots." This trend indicates that we will need to do even more in the future to advocate for the less fortunate in our society. This was a major reason for our support of the Medicare law that passed last year.
The second goal on our ten-year social impact agenda is to ensure that Americans have affordable coverage for, and access to, quality health care and supportive services. To achieve this requires that:
- Medicare is strengthened as the most important source of quality health care for older Americans
- Prescription drugs are more affordable.
- Individuals have access to home and community-based care
- Appropriate, quality services are delivered efficiently and effectively across all settings, and
- Stable and affordable health coverage for all is available.
Yes, prescription drug coverage is finally in the Medicare law. But we have to do even more to make drugs affordable and bring prices down.
We must make prescription drugs not only more accessible and affordable for people on Medicare, but for everyone, including the large number of uninsured and under-insured between the ages of 50 and 65.
We all know that affordable, quality health care is essential for keeping people living independently, as long as possible. Within the next two decades, the oldest of the boomer segment will begin to swell the ranks of those who require long-term care services and other accommodations for disability.
And as we showed in our Report to the Nation on Independent Living and Disability, America is not prepared for this situation.
One major need is for coverage of more home service, which is less expensive than nursing homes and usually more satisfactory. This is an area of opportunity as boomers age, and some states are making real progress. This is an aspect of social change where advocacy is critical.
We need to make sure that the home and community-based services needed to care for elderly people are available and affordable and of high quality.
Another important aspect of health and supportive services is to improve the health status of Americans 50+ through healthy behaviors. Our focus is on increasing the number of individuals 50+ who become physically active. My mantra is: If you’ve got a moving part, move it! An important predictor of premature death among older people is lack of physical activity. And being physically active helps people stay healthy and independent.
But sedentary lifestyles—like so many social change issues—are very hard to alter. The price of physical activity—mostly time and effort—is high. The competitive activities, such as TV and reading, chatting with friends and neighbors and driving two blocks to buy a loaf of bread, are readily available and far easier—i.e., lower cost—to perform.
We have been working for several years in two pilot markets, Richmond, VA and Madison, WI to promote physical activity. We have changed awareness, we have taught people the CDC goals for healthy exercise, but we haven’t achieved actual behavior change. We’ll keep after this until we figure it out. Our goal is to get it right and then take it to a national scale. As I said, this isn’t easy.