For many, retirement seems like a dream. However, retired nurse and Grain Valley resident Cheri Coulson wishes she could correct this assumption.

The U.S. Social Security Administration lists the average monthly benefit for retired workers as $1,413. For those who are disabled, this number drops to $1,198.

Far from an indefinite vacation, for Coulson, retirement on a fixed Social Security income means couponing and trying not to drive as much to avoid the expense of gas. Yet Coulson acknowledges that she has it easier than many other seniors in her circle. One friend pays more than $1,000 for a monthly prescription. And her late grandmother, for whom Coulson served as caretaker, passed away from medical malpractice, sparking Coulson’s advocacy for senior health care.

Coulson plans to take all of these concerns to the ballot box this November.

“I wish they could see how we live,” Coulson said of politicians. “They don’t seem to care. We don’t need any more taken from us.”

As for who she’ll vote for, Coulson feels that the mudslinging political advertisements flickering daily across her television make these decisions more difficult and more confusing.

“When candidates slam each other, I wonder who’s really telling the truth,” Coulson stated.

Though registered as an independent, Coulson established that the Trump presidency – which she called “poison to our country” – incentivizes her to vote Democrat.

According to the Missouri chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), many older citizens share Coulson’s concerns, which include insurance coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, the rising cost of prescription drugs, Medicare and Social Security.

“Americans 50 and older are the nation’s most powerful voting bloc,” said AARP Missouri State Director Craig Eichelman in a recent press release.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 70.9 percent of registered voters age 65 and over voted in the 2016 presidential election. This compares with 46.1 percent of registered voters ages 18 to 29, 58.7 percent of those 30 to 44 and 66.6 percent of those 45 to 64.

In an August survey of 800 Missouri voters age 50 and older conducted by Alan Newman Research, 83 percent asserted that they believe it’s unfair to deny coverage or raise insurance costs for those with pre-existing conditions. Similarly, 85 percent said elderly people should not be charged more for health care. In terms of Social Security, 69 percent said something should be done to immediately strengthen the program.

Grain Valley residents Jerry and Trish Harrelson also say that pre-existing conditions will impact who they support in November. Yet Jerry, who plans to vote for Republican Josh Hawley in Missouri’s U.S. Senate race, acknowledges that it can be difficult to make decisions based on campaign platforms and promises. He says he’s observed this firsthand since President Trump – who he voted for but has since been disappointed by – took office.

“Candidates will say they’re going to fight to keep insurance down,” Jerry explained. “Then, they might get in office and say, ‘I know it’s hard on the elderly. I’ll see what I can do to get it fixed.’”

“That’s no longer enough.”