10/02/2012 10:21 am ET Updated Dec 02, 2012

Debate Questions: Let the People Decide

Who gets to decide what questions are asked at the presidential debates? The debate commission gets a say, so does the debate moderator. Even the candidates themselves get input, agreeing to what questions will not be asked when the sign contracts to participate in the debates.

But we, the people?

Do we get a say in the questions?

Not until now.

More than 15,000 Americans have signed an open letter demanding that President Obama and Mitt Romney respond to a question about how, if elected, they will safeguard the health and dignity of the 79 million Americans who will become senior citizens in the next 10 years -- while also creating well-paid, well-trained care jobs that so many workers and our economy clearly needs.

We've spent a lot of time in politics lately focused on the 47 percent, and understandably so, but meanwhile 26 percent of our nation's population is set to reach old age in the coming decade<. Their care and well-being is about more than Medicare and Social Security, although these are clearly vital issues.

Senior citizens want to age comfortably in their own homes, but doing so often requires the skilled and caring attention of home care workers, many of whom are undocumented immigrant women who don't get the basic pay or benefits that should come with every job our nation creates. The home care workers who care for our elderly loved ones -- who cook for them, tend to their doctor's visits and medication regiments, clean their homes and help them navigate the world while maintaining independence -- these workers make an average of $10 per hour. And they don't have the access to paid sick days or vacation or immigration visas that many other workers in our economy receive.

If more than 26 percent of our country is aging in the next 10 years and even more of us are affected, whether we're their children, their grandchildren or their care workers, shouldn't the candidates for the highest office in our country be addressing such pressing issues in their debate? Yes, of course, the candidates will be talking about jobs and the economy. But the fact is that to keep pace with our rapidly aging population, we need to add at least 1.6 million new trained and qualified care workers to our economy by 2020. Addressing the needs of the aging baby boomer population goes hand in hand with creating good, quality jobs that our economy needs.

More than 90 percent of all Americans believe seniors should be supported to grow old and be cared for in their own homes. We should all be speaking up and demanding that the presidential candidates address our concerns.

More than 15,000 Americans have signed an open letter to ask that the debate moderators include a question about our nation's rapidly aging senior population and the needs of their care workers. Join us -- and demand that the debates and our democratic process reflect the interests of the people, not just the political and media elite.

You can sign the petition here.