Dolores M. Coulter

Attorney at Law

8341 Office Park Dr. Ste C

Grand Blanc, MI 48439

Phone:  (810) 603-0801




Shortchanging the Nationís

 Senior Citizens

Excerpt from a speech in the U. S. Senate

by Senator Robert C. Byrd

June   26, 2003

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Mr. President, just last month we celebrated Older American's month, a time to reflect on the contribution of older Americans to our society -- to their families, their communities, and their nation.  For many seniors, these "golden years" are the most valuable time in their lives, a time when they may no longer have the day-to-day aggravations of work, and can concentrate their time and efforts on something else -- grandchildren, lifelong passions, learning new skills, acquiring knowledge, or participating in creative endeavors.

But that is not the case for many seniors.  In too many instances, seniors who have worked and saved a lifetime find that today's cost of living far exceeds the level they can afford.  Despite planning and frugality, today's costs simply have exceeded the means of many older Americans, and they find that the visions of the secure life they had expected post-retirement are now more a nightmare than a dream.

A big part of the problem is the value that our society places on the elderly -- it is much too low! 

Age discrimination is all too prevalent in the workplace.  Long-held stereotypes -- that seniors are slow, forgetful, less competent than their younger counterparts -- limit opportunities for older workers and prevent businesses from benefiting from well-honed talents.  Those stereotypical images are just plain wrong.   To be 65 today is not like it was when I was young.  The idea of pushing seniors out the door to make room for younger workers is, itself, antiquated.  I grew up during the Great Depression, when you had to work hard just to get a job and then work harder to keep it.   People of my generation, coming from that experience, developed a work ethic which can inspire young people today. Seniors in the workforce can be a positive, inspiring force.  Moreover, better health care and healthier lifestyles have extended life spans and led to a senior population with vigor and vitality.

But when the health of seniors does decline, this nation does an embarrassingly poor job of dealing with their needs.  Child care has become a booming industry in this nation.  Millions are spent on bigger, brighter, better child care centers -- lively places, filled with happy activities and stimulation.  I support all of that.  But when the elderly need daily care, too often they are relegated to dim, overcrowded centers, places that serve as little more than warehouses that provide busy work for the hands, and little to fill the heart and soul.   

Inestimable numbers of scam artists focus on the elderly.   The offices of Attorneys General across the nation are besieged with complaints from seniors who were prey for some con artists and ended up losing their life savings.  

Newspapers carry stories about CEO's of big, once-profitable companies who are awarded big bonuses, while the pensions of loyal retirees are squeezed. 

When this is how we treat our seniors, something is wrong with America.

Seniors should rejoice in their long lives, in their collected experiences, and in their accomplishments.  But in America today, magazines showcase images of young, vibrant models.  Movies and television shows feature youthful actors and actresses.    No one wants to be "old" anymore.   It has become a tarnished word.   

Senior citizens today are generally not appreciated as either experienced "elders" or possessors of special wisdom.  Older people are respected only to the extent that they remain capable of working, exercising, and taking care of themselves.  In American culture, increasing age seems to portend decreasing value as a human being.  It should be just the opposite.

How did the American culture develop such blatant disregard and disrespect for the elderly?  Well, however we got to such a point, we are definitely here.  Seniors need to rise up and make their voices heard or else they will be forgotten, especially when it comes to policy formation that directly affects them. . . .




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