Maybe you've heard about the "silver tsunami." It started last year, when the first of the baby boomers (those born between 1948 and 1964) turned 65. Nationally, the number of people aged 65 and older will double by 2050. Here in New Hampshire, nearly a third of our people will be 65 or older by 2030. Research by the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies suggests that this huge shift in our society means "pledge" budgeting won't meet our state's needs, especially when it comes to health care costs. The aging of our population presents us with unprecedented challenges to be sure, but also a wealth of opportunities.
This week marks the forty-seventh anniversary of Medicare. Before it was enacted in 1965, half of America's seniors had no health insurance. Today, this successful government program covers nearly 50 million people in the country, roughly 220,000 right here in New Hampshire––with overhead and administration costs, by the way, of just 3%, a figure the insurance industry can't begin to touch.
I believe that making sure people's basic needs are met is the essential first step for a productive economy and thriving society. This is true whether you come at it from the moral perspective that we should take care of each other (I am my brother's keeper) or from an economic perspective based purely on self interest: it's more cost effective to meet needs in the first place rather than address all the compounded costs down the line. In other words, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.
Our elders understand this. They know this from experience. In fact, it is their wisdom and foresight that makes our state and country great. Our seniors worked hard all their lives, not just for their own present, but for our future. They raised families, sending out the next generation on stronger footing than where they stood. In doing so, they also built a society. My own parents and grandparents––and yours too––through their hard work, through their taxes, built and maintained the foundations of our prosperity today: a strong system of public education and transportation infrastructure, environmental protections, programs that support people to make their fullest contribution to society. They understood they were building our future.
They did this for me, for all of us. So first and foremost, I honor them and thank them. And second, I insist, they have earned more than our gratitude and our respect. They have earned our support. They have earned the right to a healthy and secure retirement, and to the support they need to participate fully in our communities. We owe them this.
So yes, our seniors have earned our thanks and our support. But they have earned even more than that. They have also earned the right to expect that we carry on their work, that we maintain the foundations of society that they laid for us. And not just maintain them, but build upon them, for our children and their children. Pay it forward, if you will. To let what they built crumble, to throw up our hands and say "we can't afford it" ("it" being good schools or sturdy bridges or reststops on our highways or care and treatment for our most vulnerable)––this isn't just an excuse, nor even political pandering; it's an insult.
I was born and raised in the North Country. I love New Hamsphire. I stand where I do today because the generations before me paved the road. They built the road. We're at a real turning point in our state. Decisions we make today have impact farther than the eye can see. Times are changing, calling us to decide together the best direction for our future. That means an uncensored, grown-up conversation, no pledges, no taboos. We owe it to our children––and our seniors, too.
ABOUT JACKIE: Jackie Cilley is proud to have earned the support of nearly 17,000 union households across New Hampshire for her campaign for governor. Jackie, who served in both New Hampshire's House and Senate representing Barrington, built a successful business and taught more than 2500 New Hampshire students over her 20 years as a highly respected business professor with UNH's Whittemore School for Business and Economics. A Berlin native, Sen. Cilley earned a BA in Psychology from the University of New Hampshire and an MBA from the Whittemore School. Jackie and her husband Bruce have lived in Barrington for more than 20 years. They have five sons, 12 grandchildren, and two dogs.