By Joe Gravellese
I believe in generational responsibility. This means we all have the obligation to make the world a little bit better for the next generation. It also means we have the obligation to support senior citizens as they age. Fulfilling our generational responsibility to the young and to the aging requires shared sacrifice, but it is the right thing to do.
Earlier this year, I rolled out my policy for investing in youth. Today, I introduce my plan for supporting senior citizens if elected as your next State Representative on September 1.
•Health care costs
One of the biggest issues facing all generations, but especially seniors, is healthcare costs.
In November, the State Senate passed a bill to create more transparency around drug prices, and cap the price of critical medication like insulin. The House should pass similar legislation, and if elected, I will support it.
There are bills pending that I have previously spoken in support of, which would allow for the import of lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada, and for the bulk purchase and distribution of medications with widespread public health benefits.
Another needed bill, supported by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, is the Hospital Profit Transparency and Fairness Act. Big hospitals receive taxpayer funds, but shirk their responsibility to the community by closing hospitals in poorer areas, shuttering services, and raising prices. Right now, the public has no way of knowing how much these ever-expanding hospital groups are spending on things like marketing and executive salaries. This bill would require hospitals to be transparent about their holdings and their spending, and claw back public funds if they are spending egregiously on expenses that don’t improve the health of patients.
While housing costs are often framed as an issue for my generation, they are increasingly squeezing seniors, too – especially seniors on fixed incomes. Seniors who rent are seeing rents swallow up their incomes. Seniors who own will not feel the benefit of increasing property values, but do feel the pain of property taxes.
Massachusetts attracts smart and successful people from all over the country. This is a good thing, but those doing well here need to invest in the health and well-being of the rest of the Commonwealth. Closing tax loopholes, reversing tax cuts on the very wealthy, and shoring up the Community Preservation Act can help us invest in our decaying stock of public and subsidized housing, which many seniors and veterans rely on to have a safe home.
We also need to enact policies that will ensure that seniors and people with disabilities have a place to live. Chelsea has an ordinance requiring a percentage of new development be affordable, and it’s time Revere does the same – with a focus on housing for seniors and veterans, like the project on Shirley Avenue that has provided a supportive home for those who have served our country.
Additionally, in Revere, Mayor Arrigo successfully pushed for the adoption of a 10% residential exemption for low-income seniors. While a State Representative does not control this, I would use my platform to urge that this be expanded to 20%.
Seniors would also benefit from legislation to legalize “in-law” apartments. Allowing for the legal creation of small units to house an aging aunt, Nonna or Papa keeps families together and creates affordable housing that fits within the context of existing neighborhoods.
Massachusetts must ensure mobility for seniors, who may struggle to get to grocery stores, churches, and other public buildings.
This is why my platform for fixing public transportation is so important, as for many seniors, the bus or the train provides an essential connection to the community.
Additionally, we must strengthen the future of paratransit programs like The RIDE. One idea already being piloted is partnering with ride sharing services for “on-demand” accessible rides. Something else we should consider is splitting The RIDE’s budget away from the T, and funding the RIDE separately as an essential service for seniors.
•Building community for seniors
One of the heartbreaking things about COVID-19 has been seeing senior centers shuttered. While senior centers across the district are doing their best to stay connected through online programs, we’re seeing more than ever how vital these community-building programs are.
When senior centers eventually reopen, they need continued support. I will make sure support for elder services is at the top of my list of funding requests for Revere, Chelsea, and Saugus, and fight to keep these facilities safe and vibrant. Additionally, I will urge Mayor Arrigo to ensure that the long-discussed concept of a new, multigenerational recreation center for both youth and seniors comes to fruition as part of the Suffolk Downs development.
Investing in youth and seniors is part of our generational responsibility, and we need more elected officials who take this responsibility seriously – not just in their words, but in their policies. You can count on me to be a champion for generational responsibility if you vote to send me to the State House on September 1.
Joe Gravellese is a candidate for State Representative in the 16fh Suffolk District (Revere, Chelsea, Saugus) in the Democratic primary on September 1.