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Senior Activists Rallying for Social Justice

We often tend to think of seniors as docile and complacent, uninterested in the pressing hot topics of the day. This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. Growing up during the racially charged 1930s through the 1950s, seniors are no strangers to protesting and advocating their beliefs.

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In 1935, when Social Security was introduced, seniors saw an inherent need to vocalize their concerns regarding issues that affected them directly. No longer, quiet recipients of legislation affecting them, older adults began to make noise in the political and social realm. When it comes to speaking out, age has no bearing and seniors are still making an impact on the social injustices of today. Here are a few recent, inspirational stories of seniors making their voices heard and helping to change things for the better in their communities and throughout the world.

Seniors Protesting Post Office Practices in NYC

Seniors in New York City took this proactive approach when promises made to them by their local post office were broken. In January 2016, seniors protested at the Manhattanville post office in New York City for what they believed were unaccommodating practices. Here, seniors were promised benches and a service window to accommodate their special needs and those of the disabled. When these promises were never delivered by the post office, seniors in the community took a stand and protested at the Manhattanville post office. Chanting “Seat and window now,” their complaints were heard loud and clear. The protestors were eventually broken up by police, but seniors vow to return, demanding the accommodations they were promised.

Fighting Authority

In 2014, Ann A. Stewart, an 89-year-old retiree, took to the streets of Boston with fellow protesters to rally against the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s fare hike. The hike saw a 100% increase in paratransit fares, raising them from $2 to $4. Stewart and others noted the problem the fare hike posed to many elderly and disabled riders who live on a fixed income. Stewart was arrested for blocking traffic, but released shortly afterward. Combined with the efforts of others, her strong feelings and ability to take action with regard to the MBTA raising fares led to the Authority’s lowering of the fare by $1, making it more affordable.

A Century of Activism

Not dissimilar to her counterparts, Grace Lee Boggs also believed her voice was no less influential due to her age. Until her death at 100 years old in October 2015, Grace Lee Boggs fought for social justice for all people. As a daughter of a Chinese immigrant, Boggs began in 1930 speaking against slumlord housing. In the ‘60s, Boggs switched her focus to the rights of African-Americans. Alongside her husband, James Boggs, they founded numerous organizations all advocating for the fair treatment of the impoverished, the protection of the environment, and encouraging young people to take leadership roles in their communities. Save our Sons and Daughters, Detroit Working For Environmental Justice, Gardening Angels, and Detroit Summer are just a few of the noble organizations started by the Boggs. She remained vocal and active in her community until her final days and was even the subject of a documentary, American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, which followed the then-98-year-old Boggs through her continuing crusades for justice. In general, the senior population has always been very active in the political community. The senior population has long been more vocal than younger adults in the political realm. Voting, making campaign contributions and contacting their local officials have long been normal practices for the senior community. The passion and sense of duty that many seniors feel regarding the pressing issues of today are exemplary of how it’s never too late to take a stand and make a change. Seniors are undoubtedly a group still affecting many issues of the day — and still a force to be reckoned with.

Do you know of any seniors who are activists in your community? How do you support them? What are the issues you feel are worth fighting for — for seniors and others?