Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell
ONE THING IS FOR CERTAIN IN THIS LIFE—we begin aging the moment we are born. Whether we like it or not, there’s no escape. We are dependent on our parents when we are small children, and at the end of our lives, most of us become dependent on our families, caregivers or strangers employed by long-term care facilities.
In between, most of us spend our time living—becoming educated, planning our careers, finding a suitable spouse, buying a home, having children, planning for our children’s education. More often than not, we spend the time between our youth and our retirement years not thinking much about that time when we will once again become dependent on others for our daily survival.
You might think it strange that as your lieutenant governor I am writing about aging and what occurs at the end of one’s life. However, as head of the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging and the state’s chief advocate for seniors, I have committed myself to learning about these issues so I can ensure that elderly and vulnerable adults maintain the quality of life and dignity they deserve.
If we are to be successful in meeting the needs of seniors in the 21st century, we must first look at the facts. According to U.S. census data and statistics from the National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities:
- More than half of Americans (51 percent) age 55 or older have less than $50,000 saved for retirement.
- South Carolina has 912,429 seniors age 60 and over, and 11.5 percent of them live in poverty. More than one-third of seniors in South Carolina live on Social Security income alone. One in 11 South Carolina seniors are at risk for hunger.
- South Carolina has nearly 1.3 million baby boomers set to retire soon. Nationally, 10,000 boomers retire every day.
- More than 25 percent of seniors 85 years or older require institutional care.
- South Carolina’s senior population is projected to double by 2030 to at least 1.8 million people.
- The federal government recently reported that the Medicare Trust Fund will run out of money by 2033.
What these facts tell me is that our society is aging more rapidly than anyone ever anticipated or cared to admit. More importantly, as a society, we are not prepared. Government programs once relied upon as a safety net may no longer exist when we need them. We have allowed our government leaders (on the state and federal levels) to ignore the signs, borrow money from trust funds designated for senior benefits and offer no stable plan to provide adequate care for seniors at a time in their lives when they are most vulnerable. They have continued to kick the proverbial “can” down the road to the next legislative session or past the next presidential election.
We can no longer wait for government to act. I encourage you to start planning for your retirement as early as possible. It is also important to have discussions with your parents to make sure they are adequately prepared with proper documents and have made decisions about the care they want if and when they become ill or incapacitated.
I urge you to check with credible experts who deal with retirement and related issues—an accountant, attorney or insurance agent—before making important decisions that may impact your rights or your assets. Another valuable resource for you or your parents in planning a smooth transition into the next stage of life is the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging. Our website offers a wide range of information related to a variety of aging issues and adults with disabilities. Visit aging.sc.gov or call 1-800-868-9095.
One of the mottos featured on our state seal is “Animis opibusque parati,” which, in English, translates to “prepared in mind and resources.” None of us knows what our future holds, but I ask each of you to incorporate the motto into your own lives and always make an attempt to prepare for what situations may lie ahead.