Residents and Presidents

FEBRUARY 16, 2011 – “There is little doubt that older Americans are highly engaged in political participation,” begins Robert H. Binstock’s article, “Older People and Political Engagement.” Binstock goes on to cite evidence that shows seniors (people age 65 and older) in the past seven presidential elections voted at a substantially higher rate than people 44 and younger.

And it’s not just presidents and potential presidents that inspire political involvement by seniors. They are involved at state and local levels as well. Providence Life Services makes it a goal every year to host a Legislative Reception at each of our Retirement Living and Assisted Living communities, featuring state-level politicians. These events are always well-attended by our residents. Not only do they listen attentively to the guest legislator, but they also come prepared with questions to ask. These citizens are engaged!

In 2010, for the first time in five years, every Providence community hosted a Legislative Reception — and some hosted more than one! The communities showed great variety in the types of events they got their state politicians to participate in:

  • Emerald Meadows (Grand Rapids, Michigan) partnered with a local law office in April to do a presentation on Veterans’ Benefits, and they invited State Representative Justin Amash to participate in a Q&A following the seminar.
  • Holland Home (South Holland, Illinois) hosted State Senator James Meeks — twice in July and once in November! At his first meeting, Senator Meeks (who is also an ordained pastor), preached a short sermon in the Holland Home chapel. Two weeks later he returned with his church choir, who performed songs requested by the residents. His November return was more typically political, as he was considering a run for Chicago Mayor.
  • Royal Atrium Inn and Royal Park Place (Zeeland, Michigan) co-hosted State Senator Wayne Kuipers in May. He updated residents on policies that affect them, and then he answered questions from the audience.
  • State Representative Sandy Pihos (right) toured Saratoga Grove in December and met with residents.

    Providence’s success at booking legislator visits this year may be due to the fact that savvy politicians understand the advantages of courting seniors. According to an article by Mark Penn, seniors have picked the popular vote winner in every presidential election since 1952, except for 1960, when they chose Richard Nixon over John F. Kennedy.

    At the same time, though it is safe to say that seniors as a group are likely to vote, it is difficult to predict exactly how they will vote. While there are certain issues that may be considered particularly important to seniors — Medicare, Medicaid, healthcare, Social Security — not all seniors are affected by these issues in the same way.

    In honor of Presidents Day this year, consider bringing your family to a Providence community near you, and spend some time discussing politics with the residents there. You might be surprised at what you learn!

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