Our team of AARP Wisconsin red-shirted volunteers is having a huge presence at all six of the state budget hearings being held across the state in April, and one of the ideas we’re floating at these hearings is something we’re calling the “Silver Dividend.”
We believe that if Wisconsin invests moderate amounts of money in caregivers, seniors and the existing aging programs, it can save taxpayer money in the long term and maximize the number of older Wisconsinites who can continue living in their homes and communities with no reliance or delayed reliance on government-funded programs.
We call these savings, and the projected reduction in costs, the “Silver Dividend.”
We are starting this Silver Dividend campaign with the state budget process, but will expand beyond this process to create a vision of aging in Wisconsin that we hope will dominate the policy discussions about the aging population.
Right now there is a very negative and almost hostile attitude among policymakers about the aging population and its potential to be very expensive in the future. Legislators talk about the “silver tsunami” which they say will break the system.
We need to change that dialogue to overcome the negative attitude about aging. Our goal is to create an age-friendly state and help lawmakers recognize the potential return for changing their attitudes. The first step in the campaign is the budget. In this budget we are arguing that to reap the “Silver Dividend,” the state should take the following steps:
- Build on the strength of existing successful programs.
- Use the tax system to support people who want to remain living in their homes.
- Maximize both legislative and stakeholder input in any healthcare redesign.
- Provide support for family caregivers.
- Help people prepare financially for retirement.
- Use modern technology to reduce isolation and to provide greater access to health and wellness.
First of all, we are thanking the state’s Joint Finance Committee for the continued funding of the popular Family Care and SeniorCare programs that help people remain living in their own homes and communities, and get help with their prescription drug costs.
We support the indexing of Homestead tax credits for all, and we would like to modify the tax system to support aging in place. We suggest the creation of Caregiver Tax Credits of up to $1,000 to reimburse folks who provide care for a loved one.
We will once again advocate for Medicaid expansion, and we’ll push for even more support for family caregivers, including statewide funding for Dementia Care Specialists. Helping families and friends find the resources and help to keep people in their own homes is a tremendous saving to the taxpayers and what most seniors want.
We also want to help workers better prepare themselves financially for their future. We will support for the Wisconsin Private Secure Retirement Plan, which would give people the vehicle they need to save for their retirement at work. Keeping people out of poverty as they retire is a benefit for all and it reduces their dependence on taxpayer-funded programs.
Finally, we want to use modern technology to prevent isolation and provide greater access to care. We want the state’s broadband proposal to provide access to wellness checks and health care.
The “Silver Dividend” campaign will not end with the budget. We will continue to work on this vision, incorporating AARP’s view of livable communities, expansion of work opportunities for older people, improvements in transit, the role of older people in mentoring and leadership in the community and dismantling the stereotypes which limit opportunities for older people.
Right now the attitude is that the aging population is a catastrophe waiting to happen. We need to change this to a more positive picture of the contributions that older Wisconsinites make, and support programs to help those helping others. We will encourage legislators to use this budget process to start planning ahead.
Together we can change the language, the attitude and the future for older Wisconsinites.