Senior Citizen Issues

These are my favorite meetings - the ones in senior centers across Minnesota - and I want to thank you for being willing to give your advice to me and to my staff. I get my energy from such meetings and I wish I could be with you in person.

In my adult life, I don't remember a more challenging time. I mean, in a way you know three crises: our economy (a recession now), physical security and also military action in Afghanistan and, you know, the uncertainty in the Islamic world all happening at the same time. It's hard for me to be away right now because I'm in Washington and we're immersed in his work. It's important work to do and even with all the threats and all the attacks, the work of democracy has to go on.

Let me just say to you, the reason that I wanted to do these meetings was I'm just really anxious to hear from you. I know for sure that affordable prescription drugs is going to come up. And by the way, I want to thank Senator Dayton, he's just great to work with and we keep saying this still needs to be at the top of the agenda. For that matter, there are a whole range of issues that I think are really important that affect your lives. And one thing I wanted to do, I just have to say this to you, the importance of affordable prescription drugs, believe me I understand that. Both my mom and dad had heart disease.

I also believe that a focus, a much more of a focus, should be on enabling people to live at home in as much normal circumstances as possible, with dignity, home based healthcare which I think needs to be at the very top of our list of priorities. And it's also no less than shameful that too often at the end of people's lives, rather than keep a meager savings to hand down to children or grandchildren; you have to go to the poor house in order to become eligible for help if you should happen to be in a nursing home. I understand these are compelling issues and I know that that would be a part of the discussion.

And I've got to say this with a smile: I do not assume that these will be the only issues along with social security and pension because I always say at every senior gathering I'm at: it is an insulting assumption for people in public office to assume that these are the senior issues. So, let's make this a wide-open forum. I've been at gatherings of seniors where the focus has been on children and education, namely our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren, where the focus has been on foreign policy issues, which of course have become so important to our country or where the focus has been on the environment. So, I just want to make it very clear that I don't prejudge the discussion and I don't assume that you are only interested in the "senior citizen issues." I think you guys are interested in the issues that are important to your economic lives or to your very health. I think you are also interested in your families, your community, your country and the very world that we live in. So, it's real important to me to get your very best advice, so please don't hold back, please help us with your good ideas. It's a labor of love for me as a U.S. Senator to be able to work with you. Thank you so much.

October 16, 2001