By Kathy Iverson
Kirkland Senior Council
These days, advocating for a particular political belief or party can be contentious and partisan.
Members of the Kirkland Senior Council, a group of residents who work with the city of Kirkland to actively advise on senior issues, avoid this pitfall by working closely with its Bellevue counterparts, the Bellevue Network on Aging, to support non-partisan legislation concerning the needs of older Americans on a federal and state level.
These two groups have worked together since 2010, lobbying politicians for legislation that will help older adults with health care, income and housing. Currently, 10,000 people turn 65 every day.
In the last six months, the group has been with staff from both Sen. Patty Murray’s and Sen. Maria Cantwell’s offices to appeal for adequate funding for the Older Americans Act. This program funds critical services that promote the health and independence of seniors and supports monies for the State Health Insurance Program (SHIP). In Washington state, these monies support SHIBA, a program that provides unbiased and free help with Medicare and other health care resources. The advocacy group also lobbied for the elimination of an income cap on Social Security to secure long-term solvency of the system.
We also asked our senators to oppose changes to Medicare that could result in cuts to benefits, increased costs to beneficiaries, modified eligibility requirements or reduced coverage for older adults. The group would like to see Medicare expanded to include dental, vision and hearing, and asked that our politicians support reducing drug prices.
On a state level, we have met with local state senators and representatives to increase the qualifying income thresholds for the senior property tax exemption and deferral programs. Currently, throughout the state, the income qualification is $40,000, which works in some areas but is below the poverty line in King County. We are advocating to raise the qualifying income level to $50,000-$55,000. Studies show that more than half of those older than 65 spend more than 59 percent of their income on housing. We are urging the state legislature to create a long-term care benefit for seniors to help pay for long-term services and support. This is known as the Long-Term Care Trust Act.
We would also like the legislature to provide funding for the prevention and early diagnosis of dementia, with enough infrastructure and support to provide care for people with dementia, along with their caregivers and families, as the population ages in our state.
Affordable housing is not just an issue for Millennials. The state has to look at building more condominiums, smaller homes and other affordable housing for seniors who can no longer take care of the family home. Downsizing should not require someone to move far away from family and friends to secure housing.
The state legislative session is scheduled to end April 28. If you are interested in any of the issues I have listed, please get in contact with your state or federal legislators to make sure your voice is heard.
The state legislative hotline is 800-562-6000 or check app.leg.wa.gov/billsbytopic. The federal hotline is 888-863-2244.
“Coming of Age… Again” is edited by the Kirkland Senior Council, a group the City of Kirkland created in 2001 to advocate for older adults in our community. The council is made up of people living or working in Kirkland who want to help improve and maintain the quality of life for people in Kirkland as they grow older. Membership is open throughout the year.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that 65,000 people turn 65 daily.