Thursday, 06 October 2011
Countering Elder Ignorance and Disinterest
On yesterday's post in regard to Senator Bernie Sanders' support of elders, Social Security and Medicare, Denise left this comment:
“How can we get seniors out there? I'm an insurance agent working with Medicare-related products, so I am talking to people over 65 every day. And I am amazed at how complacent most seniors are about threats to Medicare and Social Security - and how misinformed many are.
“How can we start a movement to educate, inform, and motivate seniors to take to the streets and push back against efforts to put deficit reduction on the backs of older Americans?”
I almost responded in the comments that there are, in addition to Senator Sanders' hard work that can be supported, at least two good organizations that make good effort to hold the line against those who would gut Social Security and Medicare.
The National Committee to Protect Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) has just begun a new campaign aimed at the congressional “super committee” which seems to be leaning toward cuts to those programs (although it's hard to tell since the committee has held almost all their meetings in secret).
The other organization is Strengthen Social Security supported by coalition of hundreds of progressive organizations, unions and others who understand the crucial importance of Social Security.
Any support you can give these groups is helpful.
But these don't really address Denise's question. Like her, I have often been appalled at elders' lack of knowledge and interest in threats to their well being from elected politicians. Even smart, well-educated, aware people I've known just shrug and their concern doesn't improve when I suggest that it's up to us elders, who know first hand the importance of these programs, to help preserve them not just for us, but for our children and grandchildren.
In addition, it is amazing how many elders vote for candidates who have publicly stated they would like to kill these programs. So a great deal of education and persuasion is in order.
Plus, there are still a lot of people, including elders, who believe Social Security is “broke” and that it has somehow caused the deficit which you and I know are both untrue.
However, recent polls, while simplistic, are amazingly consistent across the political spectrum in opposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare to help reduce federal spending. Here is a chart from one recent poll: (you can see a large-size images of this and other charts here [pdf])
Also across party lines, large majorities support taxing the wealthy over cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
I must say that this survey question bothers me because it smacks of revenge (however sweet that might feel) rather than thoughtful, informed opinion.
Denise also mentions the need to motivate elders to take to the streets to oppose attacks on these essential programs. In thinking this over, we need to remember that in many cases it is impossible and in others very difficult for elders to get to demonstrations and to march for any length of time.
It's hard enough to get people of any age to demonstrations these days, but elders are more physically constrained than young people.
So, with all that, I'm turning this conversation over to you, dear readers. Denise's questions are important, probably crucial, to the future of Social Security and Medicare.
How do we reach and how do we educate elders who are unaware, complacent or disinterested in these issues?
What is the best way to organize ourselves and bring new activists into the fold?
Are demonstrations the only way to make a large impact? Demonstrations are mostly for the media – coverage from them gains attention from others. How else can we gain attention from media to build support?
What other ideas do you have?
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Claire Jean: Superstitions