COVE Puts Faces to Elder Issues

Community of Vermont Elders (COVE) has launched a new campaign—grow bOLD—to encourage civic engagement in the legislative process in order to positively change the conversation on aging in Vermont. grow bOLD was introduced during the Older Vermonters Caucus at the State House on February 7 and will remain a constant and weekly presence each week of the session.

“We learned that when someone who is affected by the issues is present when legislators talk about those issues, the conversation changes. The issues become humanized,” said Ruby Baker, executive director of COVE.

Volunteers will meet each Thursday for the Older Vermonters Caucus at 8 am in Room 10 of the State House before dispersing to listen in on various committees and meet with anyone who is interested in hearing about grow bOLD or their personal stories.

COVE staffer Marichel Vaught said “policy affects each person differently, and it is important for our representatives to understand just how the decisions they make at the State House affect real people in very tangible ways. I am following issues that affect me, but someone else might have a different bill they want to pay attention to. It’s about reminding our legislators in the rush of the session that we are relying on them to do everything in their power to make our lives and our state the best it can be.”

Volunteers can be easily identified by bright lime-green T-shirts with the grow bOLD logo emblazoned on the front and the sponsoring organizations on the back. The unified image and voice supports all sponsoring organizations and volunteers. Each volunteer will also wear a button encouraging representatives to ask them about their personal story or struggle as an aging Vermonter.

Current sponsors are AARP of Vermont, the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living (DAIL), The Bridge newspaper, The National MS Society, Support and Services at Home (SASH), and Cathedral Square Corp.

“The coalition is always growing, and that’s the beauty of it. Everyone is getting older! This affects us all,” says volunteer Jim Holway.

To volunteer or to become a sponsor, contact Marichel Vaught at Marichel@vermontelders.org.

Hope Lindsey Grows Bold

Hope Lindsay, an older Vermonter from South Burlington, shares her perspective on aging in the state.

On basic services (food, shelter and health care, including dental and vision)

I think Vermont does a good job—better than most—but food costs have increased beyond Social Security cost-of-living increases, and there is a growing need for affordable housing for seniors. I am an advocate for “Medicare for all,” including dental and vision.

On financial security (especially Social Security)

Financial security is, well, insecure. I don’t know if you are aware of this, but our two so-called cost-of-living increases in the past half-dozen years were channeled directly to increases in premiums for Medicare. In other words, we didn’t see a cent of increase. I don’t begrudge the funding for Medicare, but in truth, Social Security recipients have not had a true increase in years, although there was once a stipulation that increases could not be channeled elsewhere. Regardless, the cost of living continues to climb. One reason is attaching cost of living to gasoline and heating oil prices when a much more sensible measurement would be cost of food, health care, and housing.

On quality of life (access to cultural activities and jobs, volunteer activities, and meeting others with similar interests.)

This is the area that most affects my outlook and sense of identity. There are limits to wheelchair accessibility and people to meet. I was a volunteer for Vermont Respite House for five years. When it moved to Colchester, wheelchair transportation was no longer available. Similarly, I could no longer go to services at Vermont Zen Center in Shelburne, nor to Essex Junction for a workshop for children’s book writers. All three are my most important activities. Without them I feel stalemated and sometimes, hopeless. (Despite my name!)

As my retirement income gets gobbled up, and I rely on aid, I thought to look for employment. I have been honest in my letters of application; that I am a retiree, use SSTA for transportation, and use a wheelchair almost always. Of the four jobs I applied for this year, not one called for an interview, and only one responded that I would be contacted if there was an interest.

This text was provided by the Community of Vermont Elders

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