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Aging and Disability Communities Join Forces to Drive Positive Change


Contact: AARP Media Relations, 202-434-2560,

AARP is pleased to participate in today's White House Mini-Conference on Disability and Aging. This conference provides the opportunity to view our nation's health, social, and labor policies with new perspective -- through the lens of both persons who are aging with disabilities and those who are aging into disabilities. The aging and disability communities share many common goals. One key goal is to remove barriers to full participation in the workplace and in community life. Another is to see more realistic, positive images that capture the resiliency, independence, and contributions of older persons and persons with disabilities throughout our society.

The upcoming 15th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act reminds us of how far our nation has come in promoting accessibility and independence. Yet much more needs to be done. For example, our country does not have a coordinated system of long-term services and supports for persons with disabilities who need some help with daily activities; nor does it have coherent policies in this area. Major reform of these policies will take extensive public debate. This broader reform will need to:

  • build a strong system of home and community-based services,
  • empower consumers to direct their own services,
  • support family members, who are providing the vast majority of long-term services and supports,
  • transform our housing stock and community features to support continued independence, and
  • use new technologies to support individual autonomy and control.

We must also preserve the Medicaid safety net, which provides necessary health and long-term care for one in every six Americans, including people with disabilities. Medicaid is an integral part of our entire health care system, and arbitrary caps and cuts that might produce short-term savings only serve to increase costs throughout the rest of the health care system. We must protect the people who count on Medicaid.

The new Medicare Part D benefit represents a major step forward in lessening the burden of prescription drug costs on older persons and persons with disabilities. This summer, Medicare beneficiaries with limited incomes will be receiving information from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) explaining what they must do to receive extra help paying for their prescription drug costs. This fall, all Medicare beneficiaries will receive information on how to enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan. We want to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries have the information they need to choose the new Medicare drug plan that is right for them.

We need to strengthen Social Security for persons with disabilities. For example, we must preserve the social insurance nature of the disability program in order to provide adequate and reliable income support for people with disabilities and their families. Private accounts that take money out of Social Security are not part of the solution. These accounts drain money out of Social Security, cut benefits and pass the bill to future generations.

We also need to remove the barriers older workers and persons with disabilities face when seeking employment, including changing employer attitudes about older workers' productivity, modifying jobs, and redesigning workplaces.

America can afford to grow older. We can affirm the dignity and independence of persons of all ages with disabilities if we have the commitment and vision. AARP looks forward to playing an active role in making such a future happen.

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