AARP Maine recently released the results of the 2014 Survey of Maine Registered Voters Age 50 and Older. This survey collected the opinions of 2,000 Mainers, both AARP members and nonmembers, about a broad range of issues that impact Mainers age 50 and older, as well as their families.
The results reveal Mainers 50 and older are deeply concerned about financial security and maintaining independence as they age. An overwhelming majority of respondents indicated their intention to vote for candidates who pledge to address these issues this November. This includes ensuring access to affordable prescription drugs, affordable housing, protection against scams and promising work opportunities.
In other words, older Mainers insist candidates represent their needs, demonstrate concern for issues pertinent to Mainers 50 and older, and exhibit a commitment to finding solutions. Candidates should take notice as older voters are very active at the polls. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, turnout among Maine voters age 45 and older in the 2010 midterm election was among the highest in the country. In the 2012 election, the numbers were even higher.
The survey reveals the deep concerns of low-income Mainers. Forty-nine percent of respondents earning less than $20,000 annually have no confidence of ever being able to retire. For Mainers who retire, one third receive a monthly Social Security benefit around $1,000, with no other income source. Another 62 percent of low-income Mainers reported being extremely worried about having unaffordable health care or costly medical expenses.
Another issue raised through the survey is that 85 percent of older Mainers desire to remain in their communities as they age. Nearly three-quarters of respondents believe funding services that enable older adults to remain in their homes into old age should be a top or high priority for elected officials. Another seven out of 10 think it should be a top or high priority for Maine’s elected officials to support age-friendly communities by funding services, programs or infrastructure development that enables residents to “age in place.”
Further, 59 percent of registered Maine voters age 50 and older have been family caregivers, while another 48 percent expect to be in the future. Unpaid family caregivers provide the bulk of care for older Mainers, in part because the cost of long-term care remains unaffordable for most middle-income families.
In Maine each year, more than 191,000 residents help their aging parents, spouses and other loved ones stay at home by providing assistance with bathing and dressing, transportation, finances, complex medical tasks such as wound care and injections and more. Maine women are particularly impacted by caregiving. Sixty-five percent of women surveyed said they are or have been a caregiver compared with 53 percent of men.
This is significant, as women average 12 fewer years in the paid workforce in large part because of caregiving responsibilities. The time out of the workforce not only lowers women’s lifetime earnings and savings, but it also lowers Social Security and pension benefits. The subsequent retirement savings loss substantially increases women’s risk of long-term economic insecurity.
AARP Maine stands ready to work with current and future lawmakers to find viable long-term solutions that make sense for Mainers and their families. As the oldest state in the nation, with more people turning 65 every day, the issues pertinent to Maine’s active older voters must be a top priority for politicians this November.
Lori Parham is the Maine state director of AARP.