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Can AARP's Silver Dividend Change Perceptions of Wisconsin Seniors?

A new program from AARP Wisconsin aims to change the attitudes of policymakers about the contributions of senior citizens. (JBryson/iStockphoto)
A new program from AARP Wisconsin aims to change the attitudes of policymakers about the contributions of senior citizens. (JBryson/iStockphoto)
April 17, 2017

MADISON, Wis. – Spend a little now – save a lot later.

That's the essence of AARP Wisconsin’s Silver Dividend campaign, which aims to maximize the number of older Wisconsinites who can continue to live in their own homes and communities, with reduced reliance on government programs.

And AARP is carrying that message to state lawmakers in budget hearings across the state.

Helen Marks Dicks, state advocacy director for AARP Wisconsin, says one goal is to counteract what she calls a negative and inappropriate attitude toward aging.

"There's been a lot of talk in recent years about the aging population in Wisconsin and how it is going to break the system,” she states. “I think we can use the budget and change in public attitudes to change how people age, and how we treat people as they age."

The Silver Dividend calls for the state to build on the strength of successful programs already in place, and to use the tax system to support seniors who want to stay in their homes.

It also would help people prepare financially for retirement, through programs such as the Wisconsin Private Secure Retirement Plan.

According to Dicks, part of the problem is the shortsighted nature of the budget cycle. That's where the idea of spending a little now to save a lot later comes in.

"You know, if you could keep people off a program for a year to two years, there's tremendous savings in that type of thing,” she explains. “And so, I think the politicians and the policymakers need to stop thinking in terms of two years, and start thinking in terms of 10 years and 20 years."

The idea includes continued funding of the popular Family Care and Senior Care programs, and suggests creating caregiver tax credits of up to $1,000 for people who provide care for a loved one.

Dicks says the prevailing attitude that Wisconsin's aging population is a ticking time bomb has to be changed to a more positive picture that recognizes the contributions of older people.

"We all have to stop thinking that it's horrible to grow old – and that there are wonderful opportunities that since we're living longer we have bonus years, and that we can really make a difference by valuing seniors in our communities, and our seniors making contribution to our communities," she stresses.

Keeping people out of poverty as they retire is a benefit for all, Dicks says.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI