I have spent much of my career working on issues that are important to youth and seniors. I have worked for AARP on retirement security policy and I also worked with AARP to design a national community service campaign. I have been recognized as a national leader on the fight to protect Social Security for future generations, because I helped stop President George Bush from privatizing that important program.
Because of this work, I understand that what we all want to is age with dignity and independence, and to be productive and contribute to the world around us.
Our great county is changing fast, and one of the trends that jumps out is the growing population of older residents. In fact, the growth rate for seniors is about 400% faster than any other age group. By 2020, seniors will be 14% of the population. Are we doing all that we can do to make this a great place to live for an entire lifetime? I think we can do more.
A unique aspect of this challenge is that the population of seniors will be much more diverse in the future than they have been in the past. This means we need to expand our services for seniors who are not English proficient and partner more with culturally competent nonprofit organizations that provide services for these seniors; and we need to do a much better job communicating about important county services such as transportation, community centers, and so forth.
Affordability is a key concern. Many retirees live on fixed incomes, but expenses in the Washington region rise high and fast. I have proposed one solution that I know will help many seniors: a bill that would double the county’s existing property tax credit for low-income seniors.
Nearly 8% of seniors in Montgomery County aged 75 or older live in poverty. The county’s Senior Tax Credit is a progressive property tax credit, so the lower the income, the higher the tax credit. In 2012, there were 3,063 recipients and the average recipient received $179.15. I have proposed a bill that would double the average amount to $358.30. This could make a difference to low income seniors who struggle to pay for utilities, medications, health care and the other basics of life.
Mobility is another key concern. I have worked with the County Executive to implement a series of measures designed to give seniors more transportation options. Among them are hiring a Mobility Management Administrator to oversee and coordinate senior transportation programs; an increase in funding for the Jewish Council for the Aging of Greater Washington to provide a “Smooth Ride” escorted transportation pilot program; and new funding to arrange quarterly mini-trips to activities and events in the metropolitan Washington and Baltimore areas that will originate from the five Senior Centers and the 55+ active adult recreation programs.
Senior transportation is a work in progress and I plan to add more initiatives in this area in the future.
I am always looking for more ideas and I ask you to share yours with me.
One related note: In “Imagine An Aging Future in Montgomery County,” a task force on these issues points out that the “decline in younger, working-age residents which will have grave implications for meeting the informal and formal services needs of an aging county.”
Montgomery County has not been successful enough in attracting young adults to stay here and to live here, and I have been spearheading an initiative to change that.
Because I believe that, as my former mentor Robert M. Ball was fond of saying, “we are all in it together.”