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We Can Do More

Change is needed to ensure that everyone has the chance to enjoy an independent life

Retired woman reads to students, Plain English column

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Role models contribute to their communities and find personal fulfillment

In my travels as AARP president, I have the good fortune to meet people who are changing the way we view aging in America. I'm talking about late-blooming entrepreneurs, grandparents raising grandkids, retirees who volunteer in schools — dedicated people who are living with purpose and passion into their 70s, 80s and beyond.

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These role models contribute to their communities and find personal fulfillment. But it doesn't happen by accident. To make the most of their bonus years, people need good health care and financial security.

I want to highlight some areas where change is needed to ensure that everyone has the chance to enjoy an independent life and meet health challenges that can strike at any time.

Too often, government policies push people who would rather live in the community into institutions. There need to be new treatments to slow the progression of cognitive decline and better alternatives for the care of people with such problems. We need better strategies to make sure people live as independently as they can.

Doctors and hospitals should do more to adapt health care to the needs and preferences of individuals and caregivers.

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As I have argued here before, person-centered care, including more options for palliative care and staying in your own home, is crucial. We are moving in that direction, but this needs to be faster. People should be able to get the care that works best for their needs.

Society should do more to support older Americans' financial security. People need to save more money, but they often lack options in the workplace. Age discrimination undermines workers who are doing all they can to help themselves. And the vital task of strengthening Social Security — and ensuring that benefits are adequate for the most vulnerable — calls for attention and action.

AARP is working in Washington and our state capitals for policies that address these issues to bolster health and financial security for people of all ages. This is a great opportunity to ensure that longer lives are rewarding lives.

More work needs to be done, but our vision is clear: a society in which all people can live with dignity.