As Gayle Deadwyler listened to people discuss Social Security during a congressional constituent conference call last year, a question shot straight to her heart.
"A couple asked, 'Would Social Security still be there until the end of their lives?' " said Deadwyler, a retired teacher in Bedford Heights. "And they were in their 80s."
See also: Understanding what's at stake.
After working hard for decades, paying taxes and contributing to the Social Security system, many seniors are now saddled with anxiety about their benefits, said Deadwyler, an AARP volunteer.
Social Security and Medicare are critical issues for most of AARP's 1.5 million members in Ohio, said Michael Barnhart, AARP Ohio state president. Roughly nine out of 10 Ohio residents 65 and older receive Social Security benefits.
To gather ideas on how to strengthen the nation's retirement and health security systems, AARP Ohio is conducting at least 60 You've Earned a Say community conversations through August.
Medicare's hospital trust fund is expected to be exhausted in 2024.
Social Security can pay promised benefits through 2036 with no changes to the system. After that, 75 percent of benefits can be paid.
"We need to do something — the sooner the better — to extend its life for generations to come," said A. Barry Rand, AARP chief executive officer.
Focus is on listening
Presidential and congressional candidates have suggested a variety of changes, including increasing the amount of income that's subject to payroll taxes; enrolling new state and local government employees in the Social Security system; changing the cost-of-living adjustment; reducing benefits for wealthy people; and raising the full-benefit retirement age.