A recent analysis of the November 2016 election revealed surprising news about baby boomer voting. In this Pew Research Center study, baby boomers were outvoted by millennials and generation X for the first time in decades. While baby boomers did not represent the majority of votes casted, their participation levels were still very high at nearly 70%. The change in voter majority is the result of two factors: a decline in the population size of baby boomers, and an increase in the participation rate of both gen X and millennials.
A change in voter composition has implications for retirees. First and foremost, without the voices of boomers in the ballot box, issues facing retirees won’t be adequately represented. This underscores the urgent need for seniors to vote in local, primary and special elections, where voter turnout is generally low. The change also demonstrates a need for Boomers to use their voice and remain communicative about important issues professionally and socially.
Chances are, if you are retired, you have some time to invest your community. Staying active isn’t just an investment in your community, but can be rewarding and will keep you sharp. Moreover, your careful leadership is needed. Here are three ways to get directly involved in your community to raise awareness for senior issues: community organizations, campaign volunteering & social media.
You may already be involved in a rotary club, chamber of commerce, church or other community organization. These communities are excellent places for you to get to know others and shed light on important senior issues like healthcare or taxes. Of course sharing your opinion isn’t always easy to do tactfully. Try starting a monthly or weekly political discussion group. You might be surprised at how many are interested in engaging in dialogue in a structured setting. Here are some guidelines for generating rational political discussion.
Many political campaigns & offices need volunteer support. This isn’t just support that happens every four years. You can be part of the conversations that happen with lawmakers and their constituents. Remember there are many types of government offices. Find a local political office – it could be a city, county, state or national office.
Political discussion is always happening online. Some of the discussion is helpful, but often it is not. Sharing your opinions in appropriate and considerate ways might help influence those in your social network. As a general rule, try not to engage in very divisive discussions unless you’re OK with losing some friends online. Instead, try sharing facts and news articles that can communicate your point for you, and be sure to pass along simple analysis to add value to the social media post. Using sources that aren’t polarizing helps too, such as content in NPR’s Health Care news.
There are other ways to advocate for retirees. Formal organizations advocate for seniors in policy issues. Joining these organizations can help strengthen the baby boomer voice in political circles. One such example of a senior advocacy group is NCOA, or the National Council on Aging. NCOA’s mission is “to help people aged 60+ meet the challenges of aging.”