Posted March 01, 2017 in Articles
BEACHWOOD, Ohio -- Their wheelchairs, walkers and weak bones make it tough for them to march in Washington D.C., attend a town hall meeting across the state or demonstrate on Cleveland's Public Square.
But the seniors who live at Beachwood's Menorah Park, a campus of assisted- living facilities and senior services, have the spirit of activists decades younger. And they want to be seen and heard. (Residents range in age from 58 to 104.)
Earlier this month, for instance, nearly 300 residents held a "Senior Revolt," a rally on their campus against possible cuts to healthcare and against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Resident Elaine Miller sparked the rally with a letter she wrote in January to lawmakers that included her shaky signature and a red-lipstick kiss as a seal. When Menorah Park administrator Richard Schwalberg shared news of her letter, others followed suit.
Charlotte Burgin, who lives in Wiggins Place on Menorah Park's campus, took a different approach. She wrote cleveland.com a letter asking someone to visit her and the other residents and write about their concerns.
"We have strong feelings about the political situation, however, due to age and physical infirmity are unable to use the current method of protest by marching," she wrote. "We are hoping [cleveland.com] will find our situation -- elderly citizens who want to express their opinion but cannot leave the residence to do so -- newsworthy, and will visit us."
I gladly took to the assignment.
When I arrived, more than two dozen seniors were gathered in an activities room eager to talk politics, from issues of immigration and gun control, to Medicaid expansion to President Trump.
Burgin, who created fliers announcing that I was coming, organized the conversation without telling Menorah Park management. But when administrators learned of Burgin's meeting, they didn't stand in the way and welcomed me.
After fielding questions for 30 minutes, I placed a chair and a camera near a window in the activities room and offered to film anyone who wanted to talk. Burgin declined, noting that she had done her part in organizing the meeting. But six people sat before the camera.
Here's what they had to say.
"There are so many decent people that can be coming here and make this country great."
"ISIS will take us over because we will be a divided country."
"I'm very anxious about the cuts to the auxiliary for Medicaid and for Medicare."
"I'm very much concerned about Congress even thinking about letting people with mental illness carry guns."
"I'm glad to see so many young people involved in protest, no matter whether they are on the side I would protest or another side."
"I want to say how proud I am of my granddaughter ... she was one of 70 students ... arrested for protesting against the immigration ban."
Elaine Miller's letter:
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