Barbara Kim Stanton
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
At this time of the year, those of us 50 and older are the most powerful people in America.
Why? Because we vote. And we generally vote in greater numbers than other age groups.
Critical issues that affect kupuna, caregivers and your financial security are at stake.
In Hawai‘i, the next Legislature and governor will decide on services for kupuna and caregivers, including funding and possible expansion of the Kupuna Caregiver Program, which provides adult daycare and other services to family caregivers so that they can remain in the workforce.
Support for family caregivers should be at the top of the list for candidates. AARP’s research shows that 80 percent of family caregivers in Hawai‘i vote.
Financial security for 216,000 Hawai‘i workers who are not able to save for retirement at work is another issue. The state of Oregon started a program that helps businesses offer payroll deduction retirement savings plans to workers. In the first year, more than 32,000 workers saved more than $4.6 million. Other states, including California and Illinois, are implementing similar programs. State lawmakers and the governor will decide next year if Hawai‘i will join them.
In Washington, D.C., AARP believes Medicare is a deal that must not be broken. We support keeping Social Security strong so that current and future generations get the benefits they’ve earned. Additionally, Medicaid should ensure that seniors have access to the services they need to stay in their homes, where they want to remain. Support for family caregivers and ways to reduce the high cost of prescription drugs will also be before the next Congress.
It’s critical for all of us to vote and to know where the candidates stand on the issues. Do you know how the candidates vying for your vote feel about issues that are important to you?
If not, now is the time to ask them. AARP Hawai‘i is doing our part to keep voters informed. Earlier this week, we sponsored a televised debate between Gov. David Ige and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, the Democratic candidates for governor. If you did not see it, the debate is online at KHON2.com. We will also be putting out a video voters guide for the general election so that you can see how the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor stand on issues important to people 50+.
We also have a webpage, AARP.org/VOTE, where you can take the AARP pledge to vote and get information on issues in this year’s election.
Even though people 50+ are a powerful voting bloc, some choose to remain powerless by not exercising their right to vote. Turnout for midterm elections is generally lower than in years when we elect a president. In Hawai‘i, 269,821 residents 50 and older voted in 2016, compared to 267,471 in 2014 — the last midterm election. That’s 2,349 fewer voters.
You can decide this year’s elections and influence the local and national debate on issues — but only if you let the candidates know what’s important to you and exercise your power.
Be the difference. Vote!
Barbara Kim Stanton has been the state director of AARP Hawai‘i since 2005. She writes about living a life of real possibilities, where age is not a limit and experience equals wisdom.