In outlining the goals of the voter engagement campaign AARP is rolling out this month, Colorado State Director Bob Murphy says the most important is to harness and mobilize the power of their members’ 50-plus voter demographic. “There's a lot of potential there to help policy makers pay attention to the issues that are so important to the folks who got us to where we are today in this country," he says.
Older adult voters typically show up to the polls at a relatively high rate, but according to Murphy there's still room for improvement. “Millions of 50-plus registered voters did not show up at the 2014 midterm elections. We want to encourage them to show up, we want the candidates to know they're going to show up, and therefore pay attention to the issues that are important to this segment.”
Murphy acknowledges that older adults are often preoccupied with daily life and don’t have the time to educate themselves about the many legislative proposals that could potentially affect their lifestyles. “We're all busy — everybody's got a busy life. If we can get the attention of the voters and, in turn, get the attention of the candidates, we can bring to the forefront the issues that are important.”
Since the organization is nonprofit and nonpartisan, the main components of the campaign will be educating members on proposed issues that could affect their demographic, teaching members how to know if those issues align or conflict with their preferred candidates’ platforms, and then encouraging those members to get to the polls.
“We're not going to be supporting any [specific] candidates,” he says. “We just want the candidates to be aware of the issues that are important to our 38 million members, nationwide."
AARP intends to deliver this information via every media channel available — social media, television, newspapers, and mailings. Says Murphy, "It's going to be very visible."
As for specific policies that AARP concerns themselves with, Murphy identifies three as being high-priority to their membership:
- The high cost of prescription drugs, which Murphy says, “is one the single highest drivers of increasing healthcare costs. We certainly think there are thoughtful ways to make prescription drug costs more affordable. There's no reason that some of these drugs need to cost as much as they do."
- The plight of caregivers. "There are over 40 million family caregivers in the United States. The average caregiver spends 24-25 hours a week taking care of their loved ones. That's time away from work, that's money lost, plus money spent on the caregiving,” explains Murphy.
- “Preservation of benefits like Medicare and Social Security — those earned benefits that people have been paying into their whole lives.” With regard to AARP’s involvement in last year’s healthcare reform debate, Murphy says, "We believed that the early proposals were detrimental to older, poorer, and rural Americans, and we let our elected officials know about that.”
To emphasize the economic clout that the 50-plus segment of the nation wields, Murphy provides some staggering statistics. “The impact of those 800,000-plus Social Security checks in Colorado, at $1,333 a month, is more than $20 billion as that moves through the Colorado economy.”
Murphy also points to what AARP refers to as the ‘Longevity Economy.’ “If you look at the impact of the 50-plus population’s spending on the American economy, it comes to $7.6 trillion a year.” He continues, “If that number was extracted from the U.S. economy, it'd be the third largest economy on the planet behind the U.S. and China.”
“I bring that up because I think there's sometimes a sense that older adults are a burden on the economy, when in fact we're really spending money at record rates. We are a very positive force on the economy."
For more information, visit AARP.org.