Chairman Bill Thomas of the House Ways & Means Committee and Chairman Jim McCreary of the Subcommittee on Social Security have both said they want to think outside the box about combined strategies to strengthen Social Security, increase national savings and perhaps address the problem of long-term care. AARP stands ready to help.
As people age, there is more they can do for themselves. Among the most important is to continue to work, if they are able. There are huge benefits to this.
Older workers continue to earn money in addition to their income from Social Security and pensions. They stay engaged and productive. And while getting their retirement benefits, their wages and salaries are still subject to FICA withholding, so they continue to pay into a system that is paying them.
Finally, mature workers will help avert the labor shortages from the retirement of the boomers.
To speed up this trend, we need to reduce age discrimination, which still persists. We need to educate employers about the ability and affordability of older workers. We must inform older people about the opportunities and advantages of work. And we need government policies for employers to hire older workers and for individuals to keep working. Policies, for example, that will eliminate barriers to phased retirement.
AARP is engaged in tackling these issues on many fronts:
- AARP attorneys have been involved in a series of cases against employers who used forced ranking systems-systems that evaluated employee performance-to discriminate against their older workers.
- As a result of AARP's success, several employers have been forced to eliminate those systems.
- We recently launched a major workforce initiative that began with our Home Depot partnership and now involves many major employers, as well as the governors of a number of states, to encourage hiring of older workers.Companies from around country can apply to be considered for this award. A panel of expert judges evaluates them, looking to see which ones provide the very best practices and policies for older workers.
- Also, in two weeks AARP will honor the winners of our Best Employers for Workers over 50 Award.
The award is given to those companies that set the highest standards in areas like recruiting and retaining older workers, offering opportunities for continued advancement and flexible schedules.
This year, three of the winners come from West Virginia. All three are hospitals: St. Mary's Hospital, WVU Hospitals, and Cabell Huntington Hospital.
This is the third year St. Mary's has made the list and the second year for WVU. Altogether it's remarkable showing for West Virginia. Congratulations.
So, with moderate adjustments to Social Security, with increased individual savings and investment, and by advancing the idea of continued work, America can afford to grow older without shifting the burden to younger generations.
Now, let's turn to our third opportunity-creating more livable communities. Most older people want to stay where they are-at home, in familiar surroundings. This may seem obvious, but there are many barriers to living in our own homes and communities as we age.
To remain independent in this automobile society, people need to be able to drive safely as long as possible. AARP's Driver Safety Program helps drivers over the age of 50 refine their skills and develop safe, defensive driving techniques. The program is taught and administered by volunteers.
Not surprisingly, West Virginia, with its high percentage of drivers over 65, also has a high percentage of Driver Safety Program graduates.
But when people can no longer drive, they must have ways to avoid social isolation.
Unfortunately, many communities lack the features and services-from pharmacies to super markets to doctors to churches-that people can get to without driving.