As the 2016 presidential race winds down and Election Day draws near, now is the time to help your elderly loved one to exercise their right to vote on November 8. Americans aged 65 and older remain the most frequent and faithful of all voters, with rates of participation nearly a third higher than that of the youngest cohort, according to the U.S. Census bureau. In 2012, Americans 65 and older voted at a higher rate (72 percent) than any other age group.
The Power of the Senior Vote
Electoral outcomes have a major impact on older voters’ bottom line, specifically for concerns around securing entitlement programs. Many seniors depend on income from Social Security and health coverage from Medicare as essential to covering their monthly expenses.
Politicians cater to the concerns of older Americans whose faithful participation in the democratic process has been decisive in the outcome of elections for generations. That’s why both Democrats and Republicans claim every four years to preserve the programs, since any assertion to the contrary can become fodder for negative advertising from political opponents.
Confirm Registration and Polling Place Using Online Tools
Chances are, your loved one has lived in the same place for a long time—the stability of senior’s lives is one reason they are faithful voters in the first place. But if there have been changes in residence, things can get confusing. Luckily, it’s easier than ever to make sure they’re registered to vote and if not, to get them registered.
Be aware of the deadlines for this process, which vary from state to state. You and your senior may not realize how easy it has become to register and confirm registration, which previously could involve tracking down information from a records office, using your computer or cell phone. There are lots of free tools to use; tech-savvy seniors can register by text, via message on Facebook, or by web app using Hello!Vote.
For state-by-state specific outreach to help seniors register, follow home healthcare industry initiatives like Bring the Vote Home.
Review Your Local Ballot
While national politics grabs the lion’s share of our attention and the personality conflicts of the presidential race dominate our discussions, state and local elections, propositions, and ballot initiatives matter just as much, and can sometimes have even greater importance in our daily lives. Taking the time to familiarize yourself and your loved one with the various issues and options on the ballot is a great way to spend time together, and in the event that political divisions excite passions on the presidential level, there’s a great opportunity to find common ground in other races or with other issues that transcend partisanship.
Mobility Challenged? Consider Early Voting and Absentee Ballots
Some 3.5 million Medicare beneficiaries are homebound due to chronic health conditions or disability, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. If heading to the polls on Election Day presents an insurmountable obstacle for your senior loved one, or the prospect of crowded polling places and long lines is daunting, many states offer a range of other options to securely vote without leaving home.
In order to vote by absentee ballot, learn the steps by reading up on a state or local voting information site on the web. Each state has its own procedure, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time to plan. Filling out the ballot, confirming your identity and registration, and sending the ballot in is a process that requires close attention and your loved one will be well served by your help as you ensure their vote will count.
Make a Day of It
If mobility is not an issue, going to vote is a wonderful opportunity for an older person to experience a sense of community, to see acquaintances, and to have a stimulating and memorable day out. Making the most out of your time together increases the chance that the voting experience will be a memorable one.
Many seniors are veterans; many have had long careers that included some form of public service. For anyone from an older generation, voting represents the continued existence of a connection to the larger society, a way to contribute and participate -- factors that are known to be important health and well-being boosters for those of all ages.