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Washington, D.C. – For the next 12 years, 10,000 Americans will turn 65 each day. In Maine, approximately 18,000 Mainers turn 65 each year. This milestone includes two rites of passage: enrolling in Medicare and making decisions about Social Security. Navigating these two systems is complex and arbitrarily marks the entrance into older adulthood. But as Americans live and work longer, turning 65 is also an opportunity to carve new paths for the future.
Today, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee, held a hearing on this subject titled, “Turning 65: Navigating Critical Decisions to Age Well.”
“More and more Americans have a chance to live to 100. The second fastest growing age group in the United States is 100 and older,” said Senator Collins. “By median age, Maine is the oldest state in the nation and is aging rapidly. Mainers age 65 or older accounted for 19.4 percent of the population in 2016. That is a 22 percent increase from 2010. Turning 65 once meant it was time to retire and slow down. Today, it is an opportunity to prepare for a lifetime ahead – a lifetime of living, learning, and loving.”
“Medicare is one of America’s greatest success stories, and it’s our sacred responsibility to make sure that people can make the most of the Medicare benefits they earned,” said Senator Casey. “That’s why I introduced the bipartisan BENES Act to ensure that fewer people miss the deadline to enroll, which can lead to gaps in health coverage and costly penalties.”
Witness testimony included Jim Borland, the Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications at the Social Security Administration, who discussed the important financial implications of decisions that need to be made, and most notably claiming strategies for Social Security. Borland said of the program’s evolution, “Currently, program rules allow individuals to claim their retirement benefits and receive different monthly benefit amounts at any time between the ages of 62 and 70, offering individuals flexibility to make decisions based on their individual circumstances.” Mr. Borland continued, “The most important information that we provide folks is the basic fact that the longer you wait to claim benefits, the higher your benefits will be for the rest of your life.”
Dr. Mehrdad Ayati, an Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor in Geriatric Medicine at Stanford University, discussed the state of our nation’s medical system and preparedness the growing number of seniors. He called for training caregivers in the field of geriatrics, modifying Medicare to better align incentives for appropriate care and prevention, and increasing public awareness to promote healthy aging.
At this stage of life, Americans also face multiple major decisions concurrently regarding retirement, health care, access to benefits and support, and long-term care. Turning 65 is also an opportunity – to develop a sense of aging that is positive. Successful navigation of older adulthood begins with making legal and financial decisions, but also includes strategies for optimizing health by maintaining physical activity and social connectedness; ensuring safe housing and aging-friendly communities; and reducing risk for harm through wellness visits focused on medication reconciliation and reduction, falls prevention, and other topics specific to growing older.
Click HERE to read the witnesses’ statements.