Recently, I wrote about the value of being a senior citizen when it comes to visiting Maine’s state parks and historic sites. I urged readers to obtain a senior citizen pass. This suggestion has now been replaced by some wonderful news. A recent article by Victoria Wallack in several of the Current Publishing newspapers points out a change of heart at the state level that benefits all of us 65 and over.

Wallack writes, in part, “Signs will be posted at all state parks telling people age 65 or older they can get in for free, and attendants no longer will ask to see a senior pass. The changes are an attempt to be more welcoming to seniors and to cut down on the wait time at state parks, where attendants were being asked to process paperwork for senior passes as lines of cars backed up.

“Starting this season, no senior passes will be issued, but rather attendants can use their best judgment to allow people in and check driver’s licenses, when warranted, to verify a person is 65 or older. The new policy affects daytime use of the 35 state parks and historic sites that charge day-use fees. It does not affect campground fees.”

This is wonderful news for two reasons. First, if there have been waiting lines it proves that many visitors come to our parks, and second, the state’s new policy will provide many opportunities for senior citizens to enjoy the summer and have a place to go that doesn’t consume as much gasoline as a trip to a nearby state. Maine, after all, is Vacationland.

Lately, I have been wondering about what would happen if we seniors actually got organized on a local level. We all know how powerful AARP, the national organization, has become. I seem to recall a movement called Gray Panthers, too, but I’m thinking of a local group, one that would demand respect and make people “sit up and take notice” at municipal meetings.

We have seen so much in our lifetime, including several wars, the Depression, lines at the gas pumps and much more. We’ve also heard plans, promises and projections – most of which never panned out.

We want people in leadership who actually have faced living from paycheck to paycheck, who depended on public transportation, who have had to arrange for an older relative or friend to transition to a nursing home, We want someone who doesn’t believe that the median income reported by the census is indicative of an elderly person’s situation. Someone needs to point out to these younger people that the Golden Years wonderfulness is the biggest urban legend of them all.

I wonder if, as a group of 50 or so, we could impress upon councils and other municipal leaders how serious the lack of public transportation is way out in the country, when medical facilities we use are miles and miles away?

Could we make it known that there’s a shortage of affordable housing for empty nesters and would anyone listen when we showed up protesting a new water slide or rock-climbing wall or other “need” when there is no place for seniors to meet? We know the kids need something to do. After all, we raised plenty of them, but there is a limit to our patience and pocketbooks.

Only some seniors, because of restricted income, are able to live in subsidized housing, but there is a long waiting list. Some elders pay market rate for apartments if they’re available, but many seniors in Maine own homes and pay property taxes, and usually promptly. They cannot afford to fritter away their pension (if they have one) and Social Security checks on projects that will not be of benefit.

If all the seniors in a town, or a couple of neighboring towns, came together in some united fashion, I think we could wield a good deal of influence at the polls. After all, the majority of us already vote, come hell or high water, and if we could persuade candidates of our special needs, we might see a light at the end of that familiar tunnel.

The problem, as I see it, in getting seniors together is choosing a time and a place. Most of us work either full or part time. But think about it. Some farsighted, politically minded person might consider arranging for a Senior Night or Senior Afternoon (not all of us drive at night) to just listen to our wish list.

We’ve lived with hearing “not this year” for a long time, about a lot of things. Along with everyone else, we’re facing a winter fraught with challenges, but the difference is our household income is nowhere near that famous median reference point.

We need to stand united and let our voice be heard. Do you agree?

Who will listen?

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