Five Questions to Ask the Candidates on Senior Issues

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Vanessa Sink

Public Affairs Manager

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Arlington, VA – Before Americans cast their ballots in November, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) urges them to ask the Presidential and Congressional candidates how they will tackle five of the most pressing challenges facing our nation’s older population and their families.

“These issues are not just about seniors—they are about the health and security of all American families,” said Howard Bedlin, NCOA vice president for Public Policy & Advocacy. “Our population is aging rapidly, and every candidate running for office must have plans to address these challenges. It’s up to every voter to ask them for details.”

1. Long-Term Care

Millions of Americans will need some long-term care services in their lifetime. Yet, most do not realize that Medicare does not cover these costs, and private insurance is unaffordable for many. Too often, seniors are forced to impoverish themselves to get assistance from Medicaid. In addition, access to home care is limited because of Medicaid’s institutional bias. The result is that burdens on family caregivers are only getting worse.

What to ask the candidate: What are your plans to address America’s growing long-term care crisis for families?

2. Funding for Senior Programs

Senior programs—such as home-delivered meals, falls prevention, and caregiver support—keep older adults healthy, secure, and independent in their own homes. They also help families who are juggling elder care with other responsibilities. Yet, senior services are drastically underfunded with growing waiting lists under recent budget caps.

What to ask the candidate: What will you do to reverse the downward trend in support of aging services and make overdue investments in programs that support seniors’ health and economic security?

3. Medicare Low-Income Protections

Half of Medicare beneficiaries have incomes below $24,500. Yet, on average, they must pay more than $5,000 annually out-of-pocket for their health care needs. These seniors face impossible decisions each month on whether to spend their limited incomes on medicine, food, or rent.

What to ask the candidate: What are your plans to strengthen Medicare to ensure that seniors with low incomes who are struggling to make ends meet can afford their health care needs?

4. Senior Hunger

More than nine million older adults face the threat of hunger, yet three in five seniors eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – formerly known as Food Stamps) are not enrolled in the benefit. Others face fewer home-delivered meals and long waiting lists to participate.

What to ask the candidate: What are your plans to improve vulnerable seniors’ access to the nutritious food necessary for maintaining their health and independence?

5. Social Security

Social Security is the most effective anti-poverty program in U.S. history, keeping 21 million people out of poverty each year. Still, a substantial number of seniors, particularly women and African Americans, rely on Social Security for most or all of their retirement income. This fixed income often isn’t enough to make ends meet, leaving many American seniors struggling to get by.

What to ask the candidate: How do you plan to strengthen Social Security so it better serves the most vulnerable seniors and their families?

To find more information about how to get involved during the election cycle or for more information about advocating for senior issues, go to ncoa.org/Election16.

About NCOA

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a respected national leader and trusted partner to help people aged 60+ meet the challenges of aging. Our mission is to improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are struggling. Through innovative community programs and services, online help, and advocacy, NCOA is partnering with nonprofit organizations, government, and business to improve the health and economic security of 10 million older adults by 2020. Learn more at ncoa.org and @NCOAging.