Older Americans Are Often Caregivers. And They Vote.

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    by Sidney Hunt
    Published: July 10, 2024 (2 weeks ago)

    In the United States, older Americans are not only a significant portion of the electorate but also play a crucial role as caregivers. This dual role influences their voting behavior and policy priorities, making them a powerful and often decisive demographic in elections.

    The Caregiving Burden

    According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, approximately 34 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the last 12 months. A significant number of these caregivers are older adults themselves, often balancing their own health concerns and financial stability with the demands of caregiving.

    These older caregivers are responsible for various tasks, from managing medications and healthcare appointments to providing daily living assistance and emotional support. This role is both physically and emotionally taxing, often leading to stress, burnout, and financial strain.

    Political Influence

    Older Americans are known for their high voter turnout rates. In the 2020 presidential election, nearly 74% of citizens aged 65 and older voted, compared to just over 51% of those aged 18 to 29. This makes older voters a crucial group for politicians to court.

    Caregiving issues are particularly relevant for this demographic. Policies that provide support for caregivers, such as expanded healthcare services, financial assistance, and caregiver support programs, are often high on their list of priorities. Candidates who address these issues can gain significant support from older voters.

    Key Issues for Older Caregivers

    1. Healthcare: Access to affordable healthcare and prescription medications is a top concern. Older caregivers often manage multiple medical conditions for themselves and their loved ones, making healthcare reform critical.
    2. Social Security and Medicare: Protecting and expanding these programs is essential for financial security. Many older caregivers rely on Social Security and Medicare benefits to support themselves and their dependents.
    3. Support Services: Funding for caregiver support services, including respite care, counseling, and training, can alleviate the burden on older caregivers and improve their quality of life.
    4. Workplace Policies: Policies that support working caregivers, such as flexible work schedules and paid family leave, are increasingly important as more older Americans balance employment with caregiving responsibilities.

    Advocacy and Mobilization

    Organizations like AARP, the National Council on Aging, and the Family Caregiver Alliance actively advocate for policies that benefit older caregivers. These groups also work to mobilize older voters, encouraging them to participate in elections and make their voices heard on caregiving and other issues.

    “Aging Americans, particularly those who are caregivers, have a profound understanding of the challenges faced by their loved ones and themselves,” says Nancy LeaMond, Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer at AARP. “Their votes can drive significant change in policies that improve the quality of life for seniors and their families.”

    The Impact on Elections

    As the U.S. population continues to age, the role of older caregivers in shaping political landscapes will only grow. Policymakers and candidates must recognize and address the unique challenges faced by this demographic to secure their support.

    In the 2024 elections, the influence of older voters—especially those who are caregivers—will be more critical than ever. Their participation will likely drive key policy discussions and decisions, impacting not only their lives but the future of caregiving in America.

    Conclusion

    Older Americans who serve as caregivers play a vital role in both their families and the political arena. Their high voter turnout and advocacy for crucial policies make them a powerful demographic. As the nation prepares for upcoming elections, the voices and votes of older caregivers will be instrumental in shaping a supportive and sustainable future for caregiving and senior services in the United States.

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