P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
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BABY BOOMERS RE-DEFINING THE GOLDEN YEARS
Leave it to the "baby boomers" to shatter yet another stereotype. 60 is the new 40. And just in the knick of time.
The first of 78 million Americans born on the heels of World War II between 1946 and 1964 will begin celebrating 60th birthdays this year -- at a time when Americans are living healthier and more active lives in retirement years than ever before in our history. As in so many other points in our history, the baby boomers are poised for an enormous national impact.
Recently I traveled to Washington, D.C., as a Texas delegate to the White House Conference on Aging. The event, titled "The Booming Dynamics of Aging: From Awareness to Action," focused on long-term changes needed to accommodate the aging of our population. Consider the following statistics:
- In 2003, there were nearly 36 million Americans over the age of 65, accounting for 12 percent of the population. That figure is expected to double as the baby boom enters retirement age, according to the federal Interagency Forum on Aging.
- The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports that health care costs are generally three to five times higher among individuals 65 and older than for younger Americans.
- Americans who reach the age of 65 live an additional 18.2 years -- up from 16.7 years in 1985, according to the CDC.
- And a recent article in the Washington Post estimates that over the next decade, the combined costs of Medicaid and Medicare will more than double (from $473 billion in 2005 to $1.2 trillion in 2015), as will Social Security, with an increase from $492 billion to $888 billion.
In Texas, where seniors already make up 28 percent of our population, we have been engaged on several different fronts in order to protect the health and quality of life of our seniors.
In 2003 the Legislature enabled local taxing authorities to freeze property taxes for older Texans, many of whom live on fixed incomes and struggle to keep up with the cost of prescriptions, taxes and other expenses. Last year we passed reforms to help our Adult Protective Services improve safeguards against abuse and neglect. The Legislature also approved measures designed to spur innovation and best practices among our long-term care facilities.
Additionally, we are looking to our retirees not only as a population in need of services but also as a reservoir of untapped resources. Many seniors regard their retirement years as an opportunity to open up a new chapter in their lives. Volunteerism is often a central part of that new beginning.
This session I authored legislation to allow retired dentists to apply for a charitable care license in order that they might help provide dental care for needy children. Similar options are available for retired physicians, nurses, and other medical personnel.
At the White House Conference on Aging, we were able to share our experiences with delegates from other states and to hear about different approaches to our shared challenges and opportunities with a graying population. Our Texas leaders will continue the dialogue which started in our nation's capitol as part of the mission of our Texas Council on Aging, scheduled too meet later this spring in Austin.
To learn more about these discussions, visit http://www.whcoa.gov/about/resolutions/whcoa_voting_results.pdf. As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services, I welcome your ideas and comments about how we can best ensure that Texas seniors remain a healthy and vibrant part of our society.
SENATOR JANE NELSON, R-LEWISVILLE, represents Senate District 12 including parts of Denton and Tarrant Counties. She is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services.