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Column | new year brings challenges for seniors
I’m going to assume, if you’re reading this, that you managed to survive the holidays, however, I believe that life for us seniors is about to become as challenging as we’ve ever experienced.
Although the world didn’t end on Dec. 21st, as some had predicted, the fact is, as we enter this New Year, with its fiscal cliffs, international turmoil and climate challenges, it would seem that we have cause for concern.
While I certainly don’t see the world coming to an end, I do see a host of issues that should give us pause for serious contemplation and consideration. For example, what impact will we, as seniors, experience if our elected representatives don’t get our national debt under control? Everyone knows it’s not just about increasing revenue (by taxing the rich), it’s also about getting a handle on our spending, which is out of control.
As seniors, we’ve had enough experience to know that when you spend more than your income, that’s a formula for economic disaster. As a nation, we’ve been lulled into a false sense of security, because we’ve been able to fund our deficit spending by borrowing, and more borrowing. Granted, there was a time when our national debt was manageable, and we could have implemented strategies to get us back on track, but today, with a national debt of $16.5 trillion, and growing at almost $4.8 billion per day, we’ve shackled our children and grandchildren with a burden that is obscene and unconscionable.
However, the implications of this fiscal crisis have profound and imminent implications for us as seniors as well. In order to achieve any chance for a course correction and set us on a path to resolve this dilemma, there must be adjustments to a number of entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare, etc.) that directly impact seniors.
Just a week ago, as I was in the operating chair to have a cataract removed, and a new lens implanted, I engaged in conversation with my ophthalmologist about the health care crisis, and whether the kind of procedure I was having would be covered in the future by Medicare. Since the amount of reimbursement from Medicare to physicians for all types of medical treatments is steadily decreasing, doctors and hospitals are facing their own financial challenges.
With talk of increasing the retirement age before a person is eligible to receive Social Security benefits, or not being able to provide basic Cost of Living adjustments for current recipients, seniors have much to be concerned about.
Imagine what would happen if we began to experience even a modest inflation rate in the cost of services and goods, especially for those on “fixed” incomes, who are relying on Social Security and Medicare for their future. The prospect is enough to send many of our seniors “over the edge”.
But enough of this doom and gloom. We can do something. And if there was ever a time for seniors to be heard, it’s now. We must hold our elected representatives responsible to make the tough choices to bring spending under control and to be more concerned about the future of our country than getting re-elected.
It may mean that we will have to make sacrifices ourselves in our affluent living style, but my children and grandchildren are worth that sacrifice. We can do better. No, we must do better.
Carl R. Johnson
Kitsap Alliance of Resources for Elders