As part of the UCLA Luskin Lecture series, AARP CEO A. Barry Rand shared that the future of aging in America depends on how we address Social Security solvency and adequacy, rising care health costs, and the rapidly shifting demographics of our country. Students, academics, thought leaders, and AARP members participated in the event, which was followed by a question and answer session moderated by AARP board member and UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs professor Dr. Fernando Torres-Gil.
Rand, who has been at the helm of AARP since 2009, shared the country’s view of aging since the founding of our organization in 1958. As programs like Social Security and Medicare succeeded as part of a social compact to keep older Americans out of poverty, retirement became “the ultimate symbol of success.”
Today, those nearing retirement age “want to redefine themselves and unleash their passions to live the American dream,” said Rand. There is a new generation of entrepreneurs and adventurers in their midst and AARP is helping them achieve their dreams.
However, many people 50 and older are struggling in the aftermath of the Great Recession, with decimated retirement accounts, reduced home values, and job losses leading to continued unemployment. Our work in support of retirement security and health security is a result of our focus on America.
At a time when a majority of older Americans depend on Social Security for financial security, we work to ensure the program protects today’s seniors and keeps its promise future generations. And as rising health care costs drive people from the middle class into poverty, we advocate for ways to reduce these costs and keep them sustainable for the future.
“We can’t just cost-shift to individuals. Suggestions like raising the eligibility age for Medicare are folly,” said Rand. We need a serious discussion of long-term care at the national level. “Whether we like to admit it or not, Medicaid is our country’s long-term care program. Two-thirds of nursing home beds are paid for by the program,” said Rand. Family caregivers who serve as the front line of defense when it comes to long-term care must receive support and resources.
Rand also spoke of the need for “ age-friendly communities” that address the needs of people of all ages. He envisions communities offering access to civic and cultural opportunities, transportation and mobility options, and continued community engagement for aging individuals.
“What kind of America do we want? AARP wants a society in which everyone lives and ages with dignity and purpose,” said Rand in closing.
The full text of Rand’s remarks will be available online or you can view additional highlights on our Storify.
Image: Todd Cheney / UCLA Luskin