Wednesday, June 27, 2012


There are questions for which I need answers.  Tough questions concerning this election year.  Questions about how the candidates view our growing elderly population.  Questions about point of view.  Questions that I believe touch all of us - the elderly, their families and the nation as a whole.   

In the interest of full disclosure, I do not belong to a political party because it's the person's record that gets my attention.  Celebrity endorsements, massive campaign contributions and all the media advertising doesn't sway me one bit.  Interviews from panel discussions to news conferences are usually very well rehearsed to avoid turning off voters and staying "on message", so they are not worthy of my attention.  I've worked in the media long enough to know how it all works with campaigns.  (And, I have to say I've always regarded these folks from campaigns as "cam-pains" with the incesant polling telephone calls.) Call it New England pessimism, but it takes a lot to impress me. 

According the Administration on Aging's "Projections for Future Growth" data, there are approximately 57 million folks who turned 60 years old in 2010. The numbers are staggering when one considers the total population of this country stands at 308,745,538.   More recently, the Huffington Post presented this article on caregiving and the numbers are even more telling. Additionally there are approximately 40 million unpaid caregivers in the United States. Why aren't these candidates paying attention to this issue when so many people are affected? 

In the past, politicians have often used the line "for our children's future" to fight terrorism, engage in budget battles, and as an argument for or against health care reform.  Yet, I haven't seen or heard any candidate applying that rhetoric to our elderly population and their caregivers?  Why?  This is an issue that directly impacts our childrens' future.  I know that the election boards in every state visit nursing homes and assisted living centers to aid the elderly in casting their votes, but otherwise the silence leading up to that critical time is deafening.  Our children may or not become caregivers.  Trust me it effects their future.

There's an old saying about "a fence is a strong as its weakest link."  In this case that link in our society must be considered the care of our elders.  Those who came before to craft a nation and honored as the "The Greatest Generation."  If 40 million unpaid caregivers walked away from their loved ones, the economic strain would be huge.  Same has to be true for the unemployment figures because those 40 million caregivers go unreported.  Those 40 million aren't eligible for anything.  Those 40 million caregivers may not be able to leave their homes to vote because they can't leave their loved ones.   Those 40 million are love in action. 

Candidates go on and on about National security, border security, and the threat of terrorism all the while ignoring that which they are going to face somewhere down the road.  If we are to maintain our strength, we must shore up our weakest links.  To be there for our fellow citizens in their last days. Why is the discussion about this issue so weak and elusive?

Is this country only for the young?  For the most productive demographics?  Are we dismissive of the older demographic?  Recently news accounts have announced that the elderly are living too long.  A line to which my mother responded, "Sorry to disappoint you."  What?  Shouldn't that longivity serve as a symbol of our greatness?  Are we turning into a country who believes that folks in their 70s,  80s, and 90's are a detriment?  Someone, please answer the question.  It's disturbing to me that these accounts appear to assign blame for our economic woes on a demographic that may be too fragile to defend themselves.  What does it take for our candidates to acknowledge this important stage of life?

I believe if we are to continue being the great nation that we are, then we have to include care of our elders as a matter of social and economic security.  Proper healthcare programs, support systems for caregivers, and respect for those who came before us have to be of utmost priority.  Politicians may blabber about the need to reduce "entitlement" programs.  Those are the folks who get a checkmark in my "Clueless" column.  To me such statements demonstrate an ignorance that no statesperson should possess. 

If anyone has answers to these questions, perhaps you can share them here.  Until then, I'll just keep asking.

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