By the time you read this, I will be retired.
Fourteen years as AARP Hawai‘i State Director have gone by in a flash.
Easy to say now that I’m looking back. When I was looking forward, it seemed like forever.
We accomplished a lot in those years. And by “we,” I mean our staff, volunteers, community partners and many supporters.
Because of our team effort: There’s no state tax on pensions. We have countdown crossing signals at many major intersections, pedestrian and bicyclist safety improvements and the strongest Complete Streets law in the country. We stepped up livability efforts to make our communities great places in which to grow up and grow old. This is why we championed Honolulu’s age-friendly ordinance requiring city departments to make Honolulu more accessible to people of all ages.
At the state level: We helped prepare for the growing reality of the 100-year life by championing long-term care reform and actions to help Hawai‘i’s 154,000 family caregivers and their loved ones. The CARE Act provides post-hospital care to help loved ones transition back to home. Funding for Kupuna Care to help küpuna age in place nearly doubled. We helped start the first-in-the-nation Kupuna Caregiver Program to help working caregivers remain in their jobs. We made it easier to find senior services at one-stop-shops known as the Aging and Disability Center. These efforts help küpuna age at home rather than in expensive nursing homes before they’re ready.
At the federal level, AARP fights to protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. We turned back efforts to strip away Affordable Care Act protections, such as allowing higher premiums because of higher age or pre-existing conditions.
There was a time when retirement, or even turning 50, was the beginning of the end — that, somehow, you are “over the hill” because of a number. I don’t buy that, and neither should you. At AARP, we are disrupting aging and changing that attitude. Let me ask you: How old do you think you would be if you didn’t know your age? Hard to guess, right? Don’t let a number artificially box you in.
We are living longer and better lives and that’s what I intend to do in retirement — enjoy myself, travel and spend time with family.
However, too many küpuna will not have retirement as an option and that is my biggest regret — that we didn’t pass a Hawai‘i Saves bill to help 216,000 workers in Hawai‘i save for retirement.
I am luckier than many. I have a pension, a 401K and deferred compensations savings. But pensions are disappearing for private-sector businesses and about half of the private-sector workers in Hawai‘i do not have 401K or IRA plans. Payroll savings is the easiest and most effective way to save for retirement and creating a Hawai‘i Saves program would give all workers an easy way to save at work.
Our team, including the new state director, will continue to fight for küpuna. If you want to join us, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I may be leaving, but AARP Hawai‘i will continue its work to give all of us the ability to choose how we live as we age.
Barbara Kim Stanton has been the state director of AARP Hawai‘i since 2005. During her tenure, she wrote about living a life of real possibilities, where age is not a limit and experience equals wisdom.
This article was orginally published in The Hawaii Herald.