Senator Ricketts’ Weekly Column: Supporting Our Seniors
August 18, 2023
Our seniors face ever-growing challenges. Rising costs, attacks on their retirement savings, fraud, and identity theft threaten what they spent a lifetime building. Many of the facilities that care for this vulnerable population are struggling to stay afloat due to burdensome regulations and other factors, threatening the availability of care in rural areas across the country. This week, I held an Aging roundtable conversation with Nebraskans in senior care to discuss solutions to many of these challenges.
Another major threat to the mental and physical health of seniors is the increased rate of social isolation and loneliness. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reports loneliness and isolation in older adults are strongly associated with greater incidences of morbidity, cognitive decline, depression, anxiety, a decreased quality of life, and increased risk of early death of all causes. A report from February 2020 (pre-COVID pandemic) found about one-quarter of seniors were socially isolated. More than 40% of people over age 60 said they felt lonely. The COVID pandemic, and one-size-fits-all policies from the federal government, exacerbated many of these problems. Our seniors deserve a government that makes their lives easier, not more difficult.
As Governor, I signed into law a bill to phase out taxes on Social Security and military retirement income. Given inflation’s disproportionate impact on seniors on fixed incomes, this tax cut provides significant relief in the face of rising inflation. As a Senator on the Special Committee on Aging, I am focused on finding additional ways to support our nation’s seniors. I am pushing Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to recognize the consequences of pandemic shutdowns. I am exploring staffing shortages at nursing homes and the critical need for oversight of these facilities.
I’m also working to combat the troubling amounts of elder abuse and fraud. Over the last year, there has been an increase in cases where scammers use artificial intelligence (A.I.) to scam and defraud the elderly. Scammers use voice clones or chatbots to create deceptive emails, phone calls, and images in order to take advantage of vulnerable populations, particularly older Americans. While A.I. contains significant promise as an innovative technology, we must also take steps to protect people from malicious actors. My committee colleagues and I sent a letter urging Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan to outline the FTC’s strategies and efforts to combat such misuses of technology. I will continue to explore ways to crack down on bad actors that exploit and mistreat Americans for financial gain.
We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. Our nation’s seniors are a testament to the values that make America exceptional – grit, resilience, and the desire to leave a legacy for the future. From building businesses to raising families, they have played a vital role in shaping our country’s history. It is essential we honor their contributions by working to preserve their dignity, well-being, and independence. I will continue to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure our seniors continue to thrive and contribute to the American story.
Along with Senator Fischer and the rest of my colleagues in the Nebraska delegation, my team and I are here to serve you. Contact my team and I anytime by phone at 202-224-4224 or on my website at www.ricketts.senate.gov/contact. I am honored to serve our great state and will continue to work to protect the Good Life from Washington overreach.