Radio Address: Sen. Libby says seniors deserve dignity of stable retirement

Posted: June 10, 2016 | Senator Libby, Weekly Radio Address

For years, our license plates described our state as “Vacationland,” and for good reason: Maine’s natural beauty and recreational opportunities are the envy of people from all over the world.

Maine’s oldest residents, after decades of hard work, should have the opportunity to enjoy what our state has to offer, free from the burden of financial worry.

Unfortunately, for many seniors, that’s just not possible.

This is State Senator Nate Libby, from Lewiston. Thanks for tuning in.

It’s been well-publicized that Maine is the oldest state in the nation. As our workforce and population ages, many Mainers have a hard time maintaining an existence that represents “the way life should be.”

According to one survey, 85 percent of Mainers say they want to age gracefully in their own homes and communities. In the Legislature, we’ve passed policies to make that more achievable.

Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston.

Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston.

We saved the Drugs for the Elderly program from efforts to weaken or eliminate it. This state program helps seniors pay for their prescription and over-the counter drugs, and we protected it because no senior should go broke just to afford their medicine. We also helped address the burden of property tax, one of the largest bills seniors face, by doubling the Homestead Property Tax exemption, which drives down local tax bills so that our elders can stay in their homes.

I was also proud to negotiate raises for state-funded home health care workers. Those raises will address shortages in the profession, stabilizing the home health industry so that our elders can stay in their homes while still receiving the care they need.

But it’s not enough. Mainers who work hard their entire lives deserve the dignity of a stable retirement. They deserve to reap the rewards of their labor, and they can’t do that if they’re worried about keeping a roof over their head and food on the table.

Here in Lewiston, many seniors made careers in the long-gone mills that once lined our river. Those were good jobs, but many had no retirement or pension plans.

I hear from retirees all the time, who say their Social Security checks can’t be stretched far enough. Cost of living adjustments are too small and far between. Instead of enjoying their retirement years, they’re worrying about how to pay the bills. Many stay in the workforce long after they’d like to retire.

We know what it takes for communities to be friendly to an aging population: It takes safe, affordable and accessible transportation; a range of housing options for older residents, including the means to stay in their own homes; community supports and health services necessary to stay strong as the years go on; opportunities for seniors to stay involved in the community.

With the help of organizations like the AARP, the local Area Agencies on Aging and Seniors Plus, people in towns around the state have come together to make plans for building age-friendly communities.

That’s a start, but we can certainly do more. At the local, state and federal level, we need to prioritize seniors’ needs with policies that make it easier for seniors to stay in their communities with the dignity and respect they deserve.

This is Senator Nate Libby. Thanks for listening.