With the last gubernatorial debate having just taken place, Mainers 50 and older, Maine’s most active voting demographic, are left with limited answers on the key issues of concern to them.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, turnout for Maine voters 45 and older in the last midterm election, in 2010, was among the highest in the country, with the numbers increasing significantly with age. Not surprisingly, in the 2012 election, the numbers were even higher. This is not the demographic to overlook in 2014.

Yet the issues that are of paramount importance to Maine’s older residents were largely ignored in the debates.

Respondents to AARP Maine’s recent survey of Maine registered voters age 50 and older clearly indicated that candidates must address certain issues during the 2014 midterm election in order to win their votes. The respondents weighed in on issues important to them, which include financial security, consumer protections, age-friendly communities and long-term care.

AARP has over 231,000 members in Maine, and we consistently listen to their needs and concerns. Our 2014 survey revealed that Mainers 50 and older continue to be worried about financial and health security and maintaining their independence as they grow older.

These concerns are even more striking for Mainers earning less than $20,000 a year and for women, a majority of whom believe they may never be able to retire.

AARP staff and volunteers have been on the road for the last three weeks traveling across Maine listening to Mainers’ concerns. Not only are residents tired of the attacks and negativity, but they also truly want to hear what the candidates plan to do to build an economically strong, multi-generational Maine.

ISSUES MUST BE ADDRESSED

It is disappointing that the candidates’ discussion of economic security for Maine families has largely ignored Mainers 50 and older. Maine is the oldest state in the nation, and these issues must be represented. While AARP recognizes that Maine faces challenges in being the oldest state, people over 50 offer Maine chances to grow and thrive in many sectors.

Recent state-specific data on the Boomer Economy (also known as the Longevity Economy) shows that people over 50 make a significant contribution to Maine.

For example, 68 percent of people 50 to 64 in Maine are employed, compared to 76 percent of people 25 to 49. Among employed people, 16 percent of those 50 to 64 are self-employed entrepreneurs, compared with 12 percent of those 25 to 49. In fact, people between the ages of 50 to 64 are the largest growing age group of entrepreneurs.

Beyond the workforce, however, the purchasing power of boomers is of critical importance to Maine. Mainers over 50 comprise 52 percent of Maine’s GDP. Sixty percent of consumer spending in Maine is driven by boomer households. Boomers also feel a powerful sense of legacy to make their communities stronger for their children, grandchildren and future generations.

AARP is strictly nonpartisan. We have no political action committee, and we do not endorse candidates or contribute money to their campaigns. AARP’s priority is ensuring that Americans 50 and older and their families know where each candidate stands before Nov. 4.

We all have a vested interest in hearing the candidates deliver straightforward answers to the questions that are important to us. In the case of older voters, candidates should be offering solutions that will help Mainers save so they can secure their future and live independently as they age.

In Maine, almost 200,000 unpaid family caregivers help seniors and loved ones live independently at home – as opposed to costly nursing homes – saving the state billions of dollars. Considering the stress on many family caregivers to hold down full-time jobs while attending to their loved one’s needs, what would the candidates do to help them continue to safely provide this in-home care?

Mainers 50 and older also want to hear how the candidates will ensure that electric service continues to be provided at rates that are stable, predictable and affordable. These issues are covered in AARP’s Voters’ Guides (www.aarp.org/yourvote), but the candidates should be publicly addressing them as well.

Older Mainers will be counting on leadership in Augusta to address these very prevalent concerns. Considering the data of past elections, the results of the 2014 election will likely be contingent upon the votes cast by Mainers 50 and older. With less than two weeks left before Election Day, now is the time to hear straightforward ideas from the candidates.

— Special to the Press Herald