Story by Darl Devault, Contributing Editor
Our legislators need to “Hear Our Voices” about issues concerning seniors in Oklahoma, especially since COVID-19 restricted the ability to interact with them in person for the last three years. Organizers ask seniors to recruit a friend and attend the Senior Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol on the morning of February 27, 2023.
Seniors can inform their legislators about important issues seniors face while aging in Oklahoma. They can explain their views on securing funding for home and community-based services, senior nutrition programs, transportation, healthcare accessibility, and caregiver support services.
Attendees are invited into the House Chambers in a once-a-year opportunity to fill the members’ seats and House gallery as they hear from their senators and representatives about their legislative agendas this session. This activity can help prompt them to take positive actions on bills addressing the full spectrum of aging that are in the best interest of seniors. (STORY CONTINUES BELOW)
Participants are also encouraged to visit the legislators in their offices and meet their staff for contacts they can follow up on later. Everyone can take a guided tour of the renovated capitol. Seniors will also visit nonprofit and government agencies’ exhibitor booths on the second-floor rotunda providing a wide range of information about senior needs and issues and their services.
Visitors can join hundreds of other seniors that day for a moderated discussion on the top issues facing the aging population throughout Oklahoma and programs designed to help seniors live their lives with dignity and independence.
Registration runs 8-9:45 a.m. with exhibitor booths available: 8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. Seniors attend an official welcoming presentation in the House of Representative Chambers at 10 a.m. and can visit with their legislative members from noon – 1 p.m. Pease allow a short period before your first event to get through the Capitol Security checkpoint.
The annual event is a chance for Oklahoma’s seniors and their advocates to discuss the needs of the more than 875,877 adults age 60 and older in Oklahoma and approximately 140,000 adults age 80 or older. By 2030, the population of older Oklahomans is projected to increase by 21.3 percent, and for the first time, seniors are expected to outnumber children.
The beginning of a legislative session is the best time for seniors to interact with their elected representatives. This is when new laws are being proposed and discussed and when legislators are more likely to be open to hearing from their constituents.
Organizers say the group of seniors gathered that day should be large enough to show legislators the significant number of seniors affected by the lack of services and resources. “The emphasis on Senior Day is many seniors being present at the Capitol to show Legislators their determination to be heard,” said Trish Emig, president of the Oklahoma Silver Haired Legislature Alumni Association. “We must make sure our voices are heard about treating all Oklahomans well from birth to 60, 80, 90 and beyond.”
Seniors can also provide legislators with specific examples of how the lack of services impacts their community. For example, they can talk about the lack of affordable housing options for seniors, the shortage of home healthcare providers, or the limited access to public transportation in rural areas.
This opportunity to gather at the Capitol also allows seniors to network with other seniors and advocacy groups that share their concerns. They can share information and strategies for effectively communicating with legislators and organizing to make their voices heard.
Seniors can prepare before attending the special event. They can research the current laws and policies that affect seniors and be ready to discuss them with legislators. They can then make specific recommendations for improving services at long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, assisted living and similar adult care homes and seek more funding and support for other vital services for Oklahoma seniors.
Please pre-register at: https://forms.office.com/g/5CYnvwvF1F and open the hyperlink. For more info, contact Alliance on Aging- at 405-943-1895 or https://okallianceonaging.org/.