RALEIGH –To help make North Carolina a better place to live, work and retire, the state’s largest social change organization, AARP, released its priorities for 2014 and beyond. AARP has over 1.1 million North Carolina members representing one-third of the 50 plus adults in the state.

“AARP wants to ensure people have the personal and retirement savings they need to live independently in their own home as they grow older,” said AARP North Carolina Director Doug Dickerson.

He outlined some factors that are threatening people’s desire to retire on their own terms. “With personal savings rates at historic lows, fewer North Carolinians have confidence that they will live comfortably in their retirement. Families are concerned about their retirement security, and rightly so. Nest eggs are small. Home values have declined. Pensions are scarce. The high cost of health care, utilities, food and other necessities add to the pressure,” said AARP North Carolina Director Doug Dickerson.

“As people live longer, these concerns increasingly threaten peace of mind, independence and quality of life. People tell AARP about these concerns every day. That’s why strengthening health and economic security is the over-arching theme of our priorities,” Dickerson said.

AARP has a long history of providing a voice for that state’s 50 plus when it comes to federal advocacy. It is also committed to working in a non-partisan way at the state and local levels to preserve and improve services important to older adults and successful aging. In a December 2013 statewide internet survey conducted, 674 respondents told us that Medicare, Social Security and access to services that help people stay in their homes are the issues that matter the most to them.

Dickerson said, “AARP is fighting to ensure that the Social Security benefits that people have been promised are there for those who pay into the system their entire lives.”

In 2013, AARP members from North Carolina and other states were instrumental in helping prevent any benefit cuts to Social Security and Medicare as part of the federal budget debate. North Carolina AARP members also were successful in advocating against a proposed state tax on Social Security benefits.

AARP North Carolina Executive Council Member Robert Palombo of Southern Shores said, “AARP is pushing for commonsense reforms that ensure the Social Security system is financially stable for current and future generations.

Moving forward, we are asking for a separate, responsible debate about the future of Social Security that protects your benefits and strengthens the system for future generations,” he said.

AARP North Carolina President and retired hospital administrator James Wall of Oxford said, “With rising health care costs and a large number of uninsured in the state, AARP is fighting for responsible, common sense solutions to keep Medicare strong. We will also continue to help adults learn about the benefits and protections in the new health care law, and will ask the state to more seriously consider joining the majority of other states that are helping the uninsured by expanded their Medicaid programs.

“Health care inflation is not the single cause of economic anxiety for older adults,” said AARP Executive Council Member Dennis Hoadley of Cary. “Because prices of most goods and services are rising, AARP is working to help you keep more of the money you earn by fighting unreasonable utility and insurance rate increases. We are also working to help older adults recognize and protect themselves from fraud  that targets seniors.”

AARP’s December survey was one of many recent surveys where people expressed their strong preference for aging in place. Support for services that enable people to stay in their homes ranked as the highest state-based priority among the December survey respondents.

“AARP is helping you live independently by fighting to help you stay in your home as you age instead of in more costly nursing homes,” said AARP Executive Council Member Cheryl Schramm of Wilmington.

“With a strong public preference for people staying in their homes as opposed to receiving nursing home or assisted living care, making sure our state’s communities are more age friendly and providing support for family caregivers will be areas of great focus,” she said.

In particular AARP will be working to help family caregivers learn about local services and connect with others who are going through similar caregiving challenges. It will also help people remain independent by working with civic leaders to improve transportation, mobility and housing options,” she said.

In addition to releasing its priorities, AARP recognized two North Carolina Legislators of the Year. AARP presented awards to Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Cary), and retired Sen. Ellie Kinnaird (D-Chapel Hill) for their commitment to support for services for seniors and family caregivers.

AARP North Carolina Executive Council, staff and "Legislators of the Year" honorees (l-r) Henrietta Coursey, Michael Dowling, Dennis Hoadley, James Wall, Robert Palombo, Sen Ellie Kinnaird, Cheryll Schramm, Rep. Nelson Dollar, Doug Dickerson, Mary Bethel

AARP North Carolina Executive Council, staff and “Legislators of the Year” honorees (l-r) Henrietta Coursey, Michael Dowling, Dennis Hoadley, James Wall, Robert Palombo, Sen Ellie Kinnaird, Cheryll Schramm, Rep. Nelson Dollar, Doug Dickerson, Mary Bethel

Doug Dickerson concluded, “The last several years haven’t been easy. People are cutting back, saving more, paying down debt, and postponing retirement. But AARP knows that it’s often not enough. Nearly half of workers ages fifty and older have less than $25,000 in savings and investments. That’s why AARP is helping people prepare for the future and provide for their families – whether it’s saving for retirement, or protecting against unplanned health issues and other emergencies, AARP is providing people with free tools and unbiased information, and calling for new policies to help individuals take charge and save more of their own money. Because no matter how rough the economy, AARP believes hardworking North Carolinians deserve peace of mind and a secure financial future.

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