Creating Communities for All Ages in Oregon

Nancy LeaMond — AARP Executive Vice President, State and National Group — addresses the 'Governing' roundtable event in Portland

Nancy LeaMond's remarks before the Portland, Ore., Governing Roundtable event, as prepared for delivery on July 17, 2014.

***

Good morning. Thank you for joining this discussion about "Creating Communities for ALL Ages." And a big thanks to Governing magazine for working with us to put this event together.

I would like to recognize AARP Board Director Doris Koo; Dr. Chad Cheriel, AARP Oregon volunteer President and member of AARP’s National Policy Council; and Elaine Freisen-Strang, an AARP state and local volunteer leader — who are with us today.

Now, I know some of you have heard of AARP — if nothing else, you know we send you a bunch of mail on the day you turn 50 ... and that’s true.

But you may NOT know is that AARP is the largest membership organization in the country, with 38 million members — including around 500,000 here in Oregon.

We have offices and teams in all 50 states.

And we have a basic, fundamental social mission — strengthening communities, and fighting for the issues that matter most to older Americans and their families. Issues like retirement and health security, transportation and housing.

Not surprisingly — given that our members are over the age of 50 — we spend a lot of time and energy looking at the world of aging. 

And there’s a lot to talk about. Because, simply put — our country is getting older.

On January 1, 1946, the first of 78 million baby boomers was born ... and on January 2011, those boomers began turning 65 — representing the most significant demographic shift in our nation’s history.

By 2030, one in four Americans will be over the age of 50 — and the 65-plus population will double to 72 million. 

Just as we’re aging in the aggregate, every state is getting older.

By 2030, Oregon’s median age will rise to nearly 40, more than one in five Oregonians will be over the age of 65, and almost two in five will be over the age of 50.

And it’s not just that we’re getting older. We’re doing it differently.

Indeed, the boomers even have a new mindset about aging – it’s called denial.

As Nora Ephron said: "There's a reason why forty, fifty, and sixty don't look the way they used to — and it's not because of feminism, or better living through exercise. It's because of hair dye."

***

Now, when you look at the attendee list for today’s forum, you’ll notice that we have a cross-section of folks — leaders from state agencies, academia, cities and counties, business groups and foundations. 

And this is intentional. 

Because the aging of America will have profound implications for every corner of our nation, and for every institution. Just look at the institution of government.

Our federal government has been deeply involved in the business of aging ever since Social Security was created in 1935.

And state and local governments also play an important role — delivering and supporting long term care, enhancing public health, ensuring that our infrastructure is able to support the needs of a changing constituency, and more.

The challenge for public officials is to make the best use of increasingly limited resources at a time of rising demand — and to champion new solutions that address new challenges.

Take retirement security, for example: 642,000 workers in Oregon — nearly half your workforce — do not have access to a retirement plan.

If nothing is done, we face serious problems as people age with little or no savings.

But there are concrete steps we can take to avoid a crisis.

For example, AARP Oregon has been championing Work & Save plans, a common sense solution that makes it easier for small businesses to create retirement accounts for their employees.

Notably, these plans rely on public private partnerships, and are intended to be self-sustaining — without burdening state budgets, and without burdening employers.

We especially appreciate the efforts of Oregon State Treasurer Ted Wheeler, who is with us today — he has been our most forceful champion in this work.

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