Sanders: Aging-in-Place is ‘Civil Rights Issue’

Senior issues haven’t gotten the attention they deserve in the 2016 presidential campaign, according to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Judging from how many candidates appeared at a recent forum on the topic, he may be right.

Attendees got a taste of two candidates’ views on seniors issues at Seniors Decide 2016, a forum hosted Feb. 17 by the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO) at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont Skyped into the event live. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican presidential hopeful, sent former Congressman Tom Davis to the forum in his place.

In the 30 minutes allotted to him, Sanders spoke about his position on aging in place, and voiced support for American seniors who long to age in their own homes.

“Clearly we should be doing everything that we can to provide resources to keep people in their own homes,” Sanders said.

It is less expensive to provide care in someone’s home than in an institution, Sanders said. The way he sees it, seniors who would prefer to age in their own homes should not be forced into a facility.

“Staying in their own homes is what most people would prefer and we should respect that,” Sanders said. “It is a civil rights issue.”

Taking steps to empower seniors to stay at home, and not in a senior living facility against their will, is “kind of, from [his] perspective, a no brainer,” he added.

Sanders also voiced his support for physician-assisted suicide, which is legal in the state of Vermont.

“If a human being is in a situation where they are going to see their life end in a short period of time, where they are suffering, where they choose no longer to be alive, I think they have the right to make that decision for themselves,” Sanders said.

Issues pertaining to seniors, and to disabled people, haven’t gotten the media attention that they should, Sanders said. That’s been one of his biggest disappointments in this campaign, he said.

“At the end of the day, we judge a nation based on how we treat our most vulnerable,” Sanders said. “Truth is, we are not doing well by our seniors or by our children.”

Meanwhile, when questioned about the Ohio governor’s positions on senior-related issues, Davis hinted that Kasich may be amenable to changing the Medicare program to support long-term care supports and services.

“He did that in Ohio,” Davis explained.

Although the LCAO sent letters of invitation to every presidential candidate on Nov. 24, and have reached out to the remaining candidates since, all of the other campaigns besides Sanders’ and Kasich’s declined to participate, Max Richtman, LCAO chairman, said during the event.

Written by Mary Kate Nelson

Photo attributed to Gage Skidmore.