Seniors across the country are consistently the most active demographic when it comes to participating in the political process.
According to a U.S. Census Bureau report, a higher percentage of people aged 65 to 74 vote than any other age group. This doesn't have to change just because a senior moves into an independent or assisted living community.
Brenda Abbott-Schultz, vice president of customer experience at Benchmark Senior Living, says seniors are very passionate about exercising their right to vote. "The election is a huge issue for most of our residents," she says, "They are members of the generation that still sees voting as a privilege."
Communities offer variety of election activities
Many senior living communities recognize this passion in their residents, and offer a wide range of activities to help elders remain involved in the election process.
From a logistical perspective, a community can help a senior register to vote, apply for an absentee ballot (for those who can't or don't want to cast their vote in person), and provide transportation to and from local polling locations.
Communities may also offer election-themed activities designed to help their residents stay up on important issues and exercise their right to free speech. Examples of these activities include: political discussions and debates, and seminars to educate seniors on the positions of different candidates.
Lisa Butler, engagement program director for Barrington Terrace of Naples, an assisted living and memory care residence, says the League of Women's Voters is very involved in her community during election season. The nonpartisan political organization sends speakers and advocates educate senior residents on the election and the democratic process.
Many senior living communities have ongoing programs that keep their elderly residents up to date with current news and events, such as daily newspaper readings and screenings of popular news broadcasts.
These news activities sometimes adopt a political bent. Abbott-Schultz describes an "Edgy News" group that's a favorite of the seniors who live in her community. The group meets every week to view and discuss clips of, "The O'Reilly Factor," "The Colbert Report," and "Glenn Beck." She says that residents love to attend these meetings, and admits that the arguments can sometimes get, "really heated."
Beyond their participation in officially scheduled election events, Abbot-Schultz says that the political fervor of some seniors overflows into other areas of community life. As an example, she describes an elderly female resident who made it her mission to convince young staff members that the right to vote is an invaluable gift. The woman was eventually able to persuade a number of reluctant staff to go out and vote for the first time.
Helping an elder get involved
If your elderly loved one lives in a senior living community and is interested in the upcoming election, you should inquire about what kinds of politically-focused activities and services their community offers.
Whether they're like the 102-year-old Benchmark resident who, according to Abbott-Schultz, insists on going to the polls in-person, or they just want to understand where each candidate stands on the important issues, chances are that your loved one's community has a program that can enrich their election experience.
Debates and discussions can be a great way for a senior to make friends and connect with other like-mined residents in their community, while registration and transportation services offered by most communities can help an elder navigate the details of the voting process and make sure that their voice is heard on Election Day.