EDITORIAL: Vantage point shapes policy
In April, Congress — in a rare bipartisan effort — finally renewed the Older Americans Act, under which programs and services provide an important safety net for adults as they age.
The Older Americans Act turned 50 in 2015, but it hadn’t been reauthorized for a decade.
The original 1965 legislation established “authority for grants to states for community planning and social services, research and development projects, and personnel training in the field of aging,” according to the federal Administration on Aging.
More than 11 million people — one in five older adults — receive nutrition, caregiving, transportation, legal and abuse prevention services under the act, the feds report.
Issues facing older Americans are bound to continue to be in the forefront legislatively because the baby boomer generation, many of whom make up Congress, continue to age.
According to the Associated Press, the older members of Congress are the body’s power brokers and many of them are seeking new six-year terms in the Senate this year, including Republicans Chuck Grassley, 82, of Iowa, John McCain, 79, of Arizona and Pat Roberts, 80, of Kansas.
But the average age of all senators actually has decreased from 63 to 61 since 2009 due to younger members being elected, according to the Congressional Research Service. The youngest are members of Generation X: Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who turns 39 on May 13, and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., 41.
In fact, Millennials, those born between 1981 and 1997, numbered 75.4 million as of last July and surpassed the shrinking baby boomer population, according to Pew Research Center.
A couple of interesting things are going on here. This election season, Millennials are making their voices heard.
And they aren’t “trophy babies,” so we should disavow ourselves of that generational stereotyping and count them way in. The oldest of them are 35, and many have kids of their own.
Millennials care deeply about social and fiscal issues. They are more diverse and more environmentally conscious. Their political sway is an important factor in the primary races and is expected to be similarly important in the general elections given their political interest and their sheer numbers.
Millennial women prefer Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Democratic match-up for the presidential nomination. That same group prefers Clinton over presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump in a general election, though, according to a poll by Harvard University's Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Millennials will continue to shape the way our country looks. And that gives us hope.
Millennials have had the challenge of finding work in perilous economic times that spurred those baby boomers and Generation Xers to hold onto their jobs, leaving less room for the younger generation of workers.
That trend appears to extend to Congress.
While the voice of the American Millennial generation is a welcome one — and one that is anticipated to shape fiscal and social policy in forward-thinking ways — we’re also glad that older workers still have a voice because their contributions remain vital to their generation and generations to come.
And while Congress isn’t always — or even often, or maybe ever — held up as a bastion of progress and accomplishment (barely reaching double-digit approvals with the public) the bipartisan passage of the Older Americans Act renewal after so many years is a welcome achievement.