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Social Security on the minds of voters at 'Seniors for Biden-Harris' event in Phoenix

Biden supporters at Devonshire Senior Center in Phoenix on June 15, 2014.
Kathy Ritchie/KJZZ
Attendees at Devonshire Senior Center in Phoenix on June 15, 2014.
Coverage of aging is supported in part by AARP Arizona

Over the weekend, first lady Jill Biden stopped by a Phoenix senior center, part of the “Seniors for Biden-Harris” campaign.

For many attendees, Social Security was on their minds.

Biden is on the campaign trail and stopping in swing states, like Arizona, to appeal to older adults who are more likely to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

Mary Ruth Keogh is one of them.

"It's my sole source of income," she said, referring to her Social Security.

In Arizona, 78% of older adults say they worry about Social Security, according to an AARP survey.

"And Medicare is my only health insurance and I don't have any fears at all about them continuing," said Keogh.

Under another President Joe Biden term, but even if former President Donald Trump wins, Keogh is optimistic about the future of Social Security.

"I don't think that they would let Social Security go under. There's too many of us on it. And there are too many of us where it's our only source of income," she said.

The crowd waiting for first lady Jill Biden to speak at Devonshire Senior Center in Phoenix on June 15, 2014.
Kathy Ritchie/KJZZ
The crowd waiting for first lady Jill Biden to speak at Devonshire Senior Center in Phoenix on June 15, 2014.

For younger Arizonans, the fate of Social Security is more uncertain. Kristi Pease will be 62 in a few weeks.

"I'll be getting my first Social Security check this year. So obviously interested in the viability of long-term Social Security," said Pease.

Pease is taking her Social Security early. Full benefits are payable at 67.

"One of the reasons I took it early is because I don't know the long-term viability; it is not my primary source of income. But I figured as long as it's still here, I'll take it when I can," she said.

And while Pease hopes the program is viable by the time her 28-year-old daughter retires, her daughter isn't so sure.

"She figures probably won't be there when she's able," said Pease.

Robert Stratton is 68.

"I'm not so concerned about myself. But I think there's difficulty putting together future financing to keep the program solvent," he said.

And he’s not wrong. The Social Security Board of Trustees projects that by 2035, there will only be enough funds to pay for 75% of scheduled benefits.

First lady Jill Biden speaks at Devonshire Senior Center in Phoenix on June 15, 2014.
Kathy Ritchie/KJZZ
First lady Jill Biden speaks at Devonshire Senior Center in Phoenix on June 15, 2014.

KJZZ senior field correspondent Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.
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