by Tashi McQueen
Senior citizens are one of society’s most valuable resources. Though their contributions are often overlooked or taken for granted, older adults are community harmonizers.
As keepers of institutional knowledge, cultural historians and family cornerstones, uplifting the voice of senior citizens and encouraging them to become civically engaged are key to moving any city forward.
Marvin ”Doc” Cheatham, president of the Matthew Henson Community Development Corporation (MHCDC) in West Baltimore, invites seniors and other community members to join the United Golden Ages Greater Baltimore, a group focused on promoting self-advocacy among older adults. Members aim to raise their voices in community conversations and help shape policies that impact their quality of life.
“I recommend getting actively involved in the community and in the issue areas you want to see fixed,” said Cheatham, a longtime civil rights leader and former president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Older adults care about issues like adequate, affordable housing, food insecurity, quality healthcare, and public safety, just as much as any other aged adult. According to a survey conducted by AARP, a nonprofit organization that assists senior citizens, older voters have a major influence on the sway of elections. Voters 50 years old and over comprised 61 percent of the electorate in districts they surveyed across America.
This month the Golden Agers are meeting to create a civic Black history education initiative targeting youth in the summer of 2023.
Senior citizens are encouraged to connect with each other and use their years of experience to improve the community for generations to come.
Community activist Linda Batts said she advocates leveraging community and city government, connecting youth and the middle class to create solutions for their neighborhoods.
Senior citizens have a strong collective voice that can be used to make change for younger generations. (Courtesy Photo)
Batts pays homage to those who equipped her along the way.
“We cannot forget the impact our trailblazers have had,” said Batts. “Victorine Q. Adams, a champion of democracy, left a legacy that serves as a model. Helena Hicks, who is instrumental in many environmental and social justice movements, believed that people are true change agents.”
Batts said both of these ladies believed in the power of participation, grassroots meetings, and community strength to turn their voices into dynamic tools for change.
Cheatham’s voice is heard weekly on his radio show, “Soup and Salad,” hosted by WOLB 1010 every Thursday. The veteran civil rights leader addresses everything from medicare loss to a lack of representation.
Cheatham highlighted issues facing seniors in Baltimore City, such as non-responsive building managers and homeless older adults having to live on the streets.
Local elected officials have highlighted the importance of open lines of communication with residents– especially senior citizens with questions or concerns.
Sharon Green Middleton, Baltimore City Councilwoman of District 6, said residents can call her office to better advocate for their needs.
“When residents call my office, we put them in touch with the proper resources they need,” said Councilwoman Middleton. “The staff can help seniors with issues such as water bills and caregivers.”