Rich Livingston, a volunteer member of the AARP Executive Council and Capitol City Task Force, spoke at the state house on behalf of the 228,000 AARP members who live in Maine.
Livingston’s powerful testimony was picked up by the television stations in attendance as well as by Maine’s largest newspapers.
With the myriad of problems that older adults and challenged individuals in this state face, it is our job as both advocates and legislators to protect Maine’s most vulnerable populations. AARP is fully aware that this is a tough economy, but it is even tougher when one is frail, elderly, alone and in pain. Seniors in Maine have watched all summer long as their hard-earned Social Security benefits were debated over and over again in Washington. For two years, they haven’t even had a cost of living increase. Any savings they may have had are long-gone in the face of soaring costs for utilities and food.
In the last ten years, hunger among older adults has increased by an unbelievable 80 percent. Social Security is the only source of income for one-third of Mainers age 65 and older. We are now only in the middle of December with a long winter ahead of us and no utility cost relief in sight. Many older Mainers rely upon every dime, every penny, to get them through each month. These are individuals who have no choices. They have nowhere else to turn. The state has alternatives, but these are Maine residents who do not.
What has happened in Maine that our legislature and our governor would even consider balancing the state budget by ripping to shreds the already thread-bare safety net that exists for our poorest citizens? Whatever happened to protecting Mainers as they age or as they need our help? It is outrageous to me that it is the poorest of the poor who could needlessly suffer if the right conclusions are not reached in the coming weeks.
At AARP, we hear the stories of what people in Maine are resorting to when the money runs out. Right now, there’s an elderly couple who have pulled their mattress into the kitchen so they can stay warmer by sleeping next to the stove. Right now there’s an older woman who has cut her blood pressure pills in half because she cannot afford to take the full dose. Right now thousands of older Mainers are not going to eat today.
Our elderly citizens need our support, and our state should not turn its back on them. At AARP, we extend our hand to work with all legislators, on both sides of the aisle, and the Governor, to develop a plan that will keep our elderly citizens safe and healthy. On behalf of the 228,000 members of AARP in Maine and our older and disabled neighbors, I ask you now, to please reject any proposal that jeopardizes the well-being of those Mainers who need the state’s help the most.