Seniors key to Democratic win

Published in RINewsToday on November 28, 2022

Just weeks before the midterm elections, Oct. 18th, AARP Rhode Island released a voting analysis of the Sept. 13th Rhode Island primary election, revealing that voters ages 50 + were the most powerful election deciders. More than 70% of Rhode Island’s older voters turned out to vote.  

A newly released Washington, DC-based AARP study found that older voters also had a major impact on 63 of the most competitive House races nationwide, including Rhode Island, in the mid-term elections. 

AARP’s post-election survey of voters should send a powerful message to Capitol Hill, that is “Don’t take the votes of seniors for granted.”

According to AARP’s voting analysis findings, voters 50 and over made-up 61% of the 2022 electorate in the targeted Congressional Districts. The predicted red wave sputtered because of older female voters, say the researchers. Democrats were able to win these districts because of the senior vote, particularly women over 65 who shifted away from voting GOP compared to their intensions from this summer.

The researchers found that President Biden’s job approval rebounded markedly, driven by voters aged 65+, particularly among women. When they looked at former President Trump’s approval rate, they found it had decreased among this same group.

AARP also noted that Black and Hispanic voters continued to drift to the GOP while Democrats continued to gain white, college age and female voters. 

AARP’s voting analysis study also found that in 63 most competitive House races that were also surveyed in July, voters age 65+ shifted from favoring Republican candidates 50% to 40%, to favoring Democrats 49% to 46% in November. The voting analysis found that Democrats came away with a 2-point lead over Republican candidates among voters overall (18+) and voters aged 50-64 leaned Republican by 8 points. Overall, voters 50+ accounted for 61% of the electorate in these key districts.

“Americans aged 50+ once again proved that they are the nation’s most powerful voters and they were the deciders in this year’s midterm elections,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer in a statement released with the 36-page report on Nov. 17, 2022. “They were crystal clear that they want elected officials to work together to address crucial issues that will ensure their health and financial security. Elected officials and candidates can’t afford to ignore this formidable group of voters and the issues that matter to them,” she notes.

Top concerns of older voters

According to AARP’s National Targeted Congressional District-post-election Survey, inflation and rising prices (33%) were the top concern for voters overall, followed by abortion (28%) and threats to democracy (25%).

The survey also showed differences in the issues most important to voters 50-64 vs. those age 65 and older. Inflation and rising prices were top of mind for the 50-64 age group. Among voters 65+, threats to democracy (30%), inflation (29%), and Social Security and Medicare (24%) topped the list, the study’s findings indicate.

The researchers also found that more than half of voters (53%) said they were worried about their personal financial situation, with 65% of those who voted Republican and 42% who voted Democrat said they were worried. 

The study’s report also noted that 70% voted more for the candidate they chose, rather than against the other candidate;  Independents and younger voters were more likely to say they voted against the other candidate.

The analysis also found that a majority (53%) voted for the candidate they thought would work in a bipartisan manner, while 42% preferred candidates they thought stayed true to their beliefs and stood firm in their positions. By 36 points, Democrats preferred candidates who they thought were bipartisan, while Republicans voted by a 25 point margin for candidates they thought would stay true to their beliefs.

Methodology

As to the study’s methodology, AARP commissioned the bipartisan polling team of Fabrizio Ward and Impact Research to conduct this survey. The firms interviewed 2,353 adults in 63 of the U.S. House districts that Cook Political Report rated as “Lean” or “Toss Up” as of Nov. 7, 2022. This included a sample of 1,903 2022 general election voters distributed across the districts and 450 adults who did not vote in the 2022 general election. The interviews were conducted via landline, cellphone, and SMS-to-web between November 9-10, 2022.

AARP’s statement noted that approximately 30 voter interviews were conducted in each congressional district and any non-voters who were encountered were also interviewed. The overall sample was weighted by age, gender race and education to be representative of the adult population in the 63 congressional districts based on demographic data from the U.S. Census and consumer data. The voter sample was weighted on congressional vote choice to match 2022 election results.

To see the completed research results, go to:

AARP study shows Seniors favor a good life, over a lengthy one

Published in RINewsToday on September 26, 2022, 

Even with many older adults facing health challenges in their later years, they maintain an optimistic view of their aging and expect their lives to improve as they grow older, according to new research findings from AARP in collaboration with National Geographic Partners. The study found that three-quarters or more of those age 60 and over have at least one serious health condition, nearly half rate their health as very good or excellent.  

“The insights in this [57 page] study demand that we reexamine our assumptions about aging, especially outdated stereotypes around growing older,” said Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP in a statement released on June 1, 2022, announcing the findings of the study. “Far from being dragged down by worries about their health and finances, adults in their 70s and beyond are optimistic and positive about their lives.

They have a clear-eyed view of what it means to age, and they want their final decades of life to be independent and healthy – as they define the terms!” she says. 

According to the Second Half of Life Research study, Americans are doing more to stay healthy as they move into their later years.  They are more likely to take control of their health by getting health screenings, eating more produce and monitoring their sugar intake. And having more healthy years matters more than simply living longer – most respondents say that they were interested in a hypothetical pill that could slow down aging, but far fewer would take a pill to extend their life by a decade. 

The AARP study also found that the oldest Americans are also some of the happiest people: about one in three people aged 80 and older said they were very happy with their life, compared to just 16% of those ages 40-49. The researchers paired a national survey of adults 18 and older with in-depth interviews to paint a detailed picture of Americans’ outlook on life in the years from 40 to 100, and how those perceptions evolve with each decade. They found that relations with families and friends become an important feature and a source of purpose and joy as we age. Retirement allows one to control their lives and they choose to spend it with loved ones and having hobbies. Travel is expected but falls off as the person ages.  

The AARP study’s findings indicate that as people move into their later years, they don’t seem concerned about the length of their life, and as they live longer it becomes even less of a concern. “Fear of dying is low and drops as you age; feeling the need to prepare grows as you age,” notes the researchers.

On the financial front, just over half of adults 70 and older say their financial situation is excellent or very good – but responses vary widely by household income. More than half of those with an income of less than $30,000 per year rate their financial situation as fair or poor, while 60% of those with an income over $100,000 rate their finances as excellent or very good.

Among adults who are still working, most want to retire at a younger age than they think they will be able to – a gap that gets smaller with age. 

Most Americans want and expect to live independently as they age; only in their 80s did more respondents say they would need support to do so. Living in “my home” is also preferred over living in a retirement community, but this desire declines in the later decades, says the study’s findings.

The AARP Study also found that brain health, independence, and relationships were the top concerns of the respondents. The study’s findings indicate that memory loss was a top concern, too. For the respondents, memory and strength becomes a top concern as the person reached age 50 and over, while fear of cancer became less of a concern.

The study’s respondents expressed fear of becoming incontinent and have diminished hearing in their later years, but fear of diabetes and sexual performance loss declined after their 60s. 

For older study respondents, reliance on Social Security becomes a certainty. Hopefully this finding will reach the ears of Congressional lawmakers as they debate the merits of strengthening and expanding the nation’s Social Security program.

The study’s findings note that researchers also say that fears about the ability to live independently steadily increase over the decades.  Assistance from family and friends are more preferable to respondents when living at home, than hiring help. This preference increases as they age.

AARP’s Second Half of Life study, conducted in collaboration with National Geographic Partners with Heart+Mind Strategies, included an online and telephone survey of 2,580 US adults ages 18 and older, conducted January 7-28, 2022, and 25 in-depth, individual 30-minute interviews conducted virtually from February 22 to March 4, 2022.  Final data have been weighted to the U.S. Census for analysis by age group, gender, census division, ethnicity, and education.

To view the Second Half of Life Study’s report, go to:  https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/research/surveys_statistics/life-leisure/2022/second-half-life-desires-concerns-report.doi.10.26419-2Fres.00538.001.pdf.

For more information, please contact Vicki Levy, AARP’s Senior Research Advisor, at vlevy@aarp.org.

Time to be educated on senior issues with primary just weeks away

Published in RINewsToday on August 22, 2022

On Aug. 17, just twenty-eight days before Rhode Island’s Sept. 13th Primary Election, at the Warwick-based Pilgrim Senior Center, Gov. Dan McKee joined Lt. Governor Sabina Matos, House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, other elected leaders and advocates to highlight recently passed legislative and budget initiatives that supported  Rhode Island’s senior population. The Governor ceremonially signed legislation passed this legislative session. 

Among those investments is $4 million in the FY 23 state budget to increase the Circuit Breaker Tax Credit available to qualifying seniors and adults with disabilities, raising the maximum credit received to $600 and increasing the income threshold for eligibility to $ 35,000.  This property tax credit program provides relief to eligible seniors and adults with disabilities who own or rent their homes. The budget also increases the amount of pension income that is exempt from state taxation for all retirees from the first $15,000 to the first $20,000.

Whether it’s tax relief, housing, food security, or utilities, our Administration is looking at these issues through the lens of ensuring our seniors are able to not just live in the Ocean State, but that they are also able to thrive here,” stated the McKee at the event, a continuation of his #RIMomentum Tour. “I am proud to deliver a budget and sign several pieces of legislation that support and protect our seniors, and I thank the sponsors and advocates who helped see them across the finish line,” he said.

“Both as chair of the Long Term Care Coordinating Council, and as a granddaughter whose family cares for a senior, I am dedicated to ensuring that every Rhode Islander has the support they need to live full, rich, and long lives. The budget we have passed this year, along with the bills signed today, will significantly improve on our seniors’ quality of life,” said Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos. “We are going to continue working to provide high-quality services to our neighbors of every age.”

With his ceremonially pen, the Governor also signed these pieces of legislation:

H7133B (Reps, Joseph M. McNamara) and S2207A (Sen. Joshua Miller): This legislation authorizes the creation and implementation of a pharmaceutical redistribution program by the Department of Health and the Board of Pharmacy to begin on Jan. 1, 2023.

H7246 (Representative Jason Knight) and S2228 (Senator Cynthia A. Coyne): This legislation lowers the age at which a victim can be considered an elder under the state’s elder financial exploitation laws.

H 7068 (Representative Kathleen A. Fogarty) and S2317   (Senator V. Susan Sosnowski): This legislation makes it easier for senior citizens to apply for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

Aging Advocates Gear Up for Next Legislative Session

McKee’s ceremonial signing of legislation was a visible sign to aging advocates that state officials are recognizing that these are wise investments that foster healthy lives and economic security for our growing older population, says Maureen Maigret, Chair of the Aging in Community Subcommittee of the Long Term Care Coordinating Council and serves on the Board of Directors for the Senior Agenda Coalition and the Village Common of RI. “The budget builds on Subcommittee promoted legislation sponsored by Rep. Deb Ruggiero and Sen. Cynthis Coyne to expand the Property Tax Relief law and last year’s addition of close to $1Million in Governor McKee’s budget to increase income eligibility for the Office of Healthy Aging ‘At Home Cost Share’ program and to include persons under age 65 with Alzheimer’s and other dementias,” she said. 

According to Maigret, several items from the Sub-committee’s Strategic Plan that did not make it this year are the expansion of the Medicare Savings Program to help lower-income adults pay for Medicare Part B’s hefty premiums and extending the state Paid Family Leave law beyond six weeks which will help families needing to take time out of work to care for both older relatives and children needing medical/nursing care. “These are just some of the items we will be advocating for in 2023,” she said.

Maigret notes that September’s Primary Election is less than a month away. “New laws make it easier to vote.  You can apply online for a mail ballot for the Primary which must be sent in by August 23rd, she says. 

Becoming an Educated Voter on Senior Issues

According to Ballotpedia, the website encyclopedia of American politics, all 435 voting seats in the House of Representatives and 34 Senate Seats will be up for grabs on the midterm elections scheduled for Nov. 8, 2022 . The seats of five of the six non-voting members of the House are also up for election as well. 

Ballotpedia notes, state elective offices up for election in 2022 include 36 gubernatorial seats, 30 lieutenant gubernatorial seats, 30 attorney general seats, and 27 secretary of state seats. Including down-ballot races, there are 309 state executive offices up for election across 44 states in 2022, says Ballotpedia.

Also, 88 of the country’s 99 state legislative chambers will also hold regularly scheduled elections, representing 6,278 of the nation’s 7,283 legislative seats, adds Ballotpedia.

The Washington, DC-based AARP gears up its efforts, through its “Our Voices Decide” campaign, to ensure that America’s seniors can continue to maximize their influence on this year’s midterm elections (at both the state and national levels) like they have for previous elections. 

According to AARP Rhode Island, AARP in every state has a voter engagement page that provides information on when, how and where to vote and, in many states, recent changes in voting laws. Ours is at www.aarp.org/RIVotes. This webpage is updated frequently. 

Many states also post video voter guides, in which candidates are asked questions. In Rhode Island – and in every state — candidates were strictly limited to 60 seconds or less to respond. Texts of the questions and answers on video are posted online. The candidate responses appear in alphabetical order, just as they would appear on the ballot, says AARP Rhode Island.

AARP has provided voting information for many years. AARP Rhode Island featured videos of candidates for Governor in 2020. We chose to feature candidates in three contested 2022 Primary races – Governor, 2nd Congressional District and Providence Mayor, says AARP Rhode Island.

“Voting gives you the power to decide what our future looks like,” AARP Rhode Island State Director Catherine said. “But you have to be in the know to vote. AARP Rhode Island sees the importance of collecting the most up-to-date election information, including key dates and deadlines, to make sure that the voices of voters 50+ are heard. We are doing everything we can to make sure older Rhode Islanders are prepared to vote and know the safe and secure voting options included in the new, AARP Rhode Island-backed Let RI Vote Act. Our Video Voter Guide takes this a step further and with an important focus, giving older voters clear, concise answers on issues that impact their lives. Debates and candidate forums seldom focus on these questions and that is why AARP steps in to give voters a non-partisan, trusted resource to better understand where candidates stand before they cast their votes,” she says.

“In Rhode Island and across the country, the data clearly shows that 50+ voters will be the deciders in the 2022 elections,” said Taylor. “We are working with dozens of advocacy volunteers who are fighting for voters 50+ to make their voices heard on the issues that matter – especially in Rhode Island where we are in the midst of a housing crisis, nursing homes are in jeopardy, the cost of long-term care is skyrocketing and where people want leaders who are committed to making local communities more livable,” she adds.

“At the federal level, older voters want to know candidates’ positions on protecting and strengthening the Social Security benefits Americans have paid into and earned through years of hard work, protecting and improving Medicare benefits, lowering prescription drug prices, and supporting family caregivers who risk their careers and financial futures to care for parents, spouses, and other loved ones,” Taylor said.

Other Resources…

On August 3 the Senior Agenda Coalition of RI co-hosted a Governor’s Candidates Forum hosted by 17 organizations (www.senioragendari.org/coalition). To learn how the candidates from both parties responded to seven questions about aging policy and issues. Go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=okQ5FguKMao