OPINION: LUPE WISSEL — Idaho is not just for the young

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On behalf of AARP Idaho and our 186,000 members across the Gem State, I would like to applaud Gov. Little’s priorities outlined in his first State of the State address.

We agree Proposition 2 deserves full funding and implementation as soon as possible. Idaho voters spoke overwhelmingly in favor of expanding Medicaid. It’s now vital that legislators administer the will of the people, without instituting barriers, and provide increased access to health care for Idahoans 50 to 64.

The absence of adequate broadband infrastructure across the state is an area we believe needs improvement, but not just for economic development or growth. High-speed internet also allows Idahoans increased access to tele-medicine and improved care in rural communities for patients who might otherwise have to travel long distances for specialty services.

We also support Gov. Little’s recommended spending authority for a veterans home in Post Falls. Veterans have sacrificed for their country and deserve a government that continues to value their service and provide needed supports.

And while investments in education, workforce development, transportation, natural resources and public safety are necessary considerations for Idaho moving forward, we would also remind the new administration that Idaho’s population is aging faster than the rest of the country. In fact, the Census Bureau reported in 2017 that more than half of the nearly 116,000 Idahoans added since the 2010 census are over 65.

This trend will continue and issues important to the 50+ must also be addressed.

AARP Idaho stands ready to provide any assistance necessary to help the Little administration and members of the Legislature;

• Support the 200,000 unpaid family caregivers in the state so their loved ones can live independently at home and continue to stay out of costly institutions.

• Protect the aging population from elder abuse, especially fraud and financial exploitation.

• Help older individuals stay in the job market and contribute to Idaho’s economy.

• Empower Idahoans to choose how they live as they age by providing a pathway for workers to save for retirement.

• Provide the opportunity to age in place through age-friendly communities, affordable housing and reliable transportation option.

Idaho is faced with challenges but also has huge opportunities. We need to tackle issues together with an eye toward the future that benefits Idahoans of all ages. In the words of AARP’s founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, “What we do, we do for all.”

• • •

Lupe Wissel is state director of Idaho AARP.

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