In the last two days, I toured Senator Scott Brown and a senior staff person for Congressman Capuano through JCHE’s Brighton campus. What do they have in common? Not a lot of shared views on the economy, the role of government in helping its citizens achieve economic security and certainly not on the importance of including new revenues in the solution to the debt ceiling pressures! But both do share an interest in their constituents and in learning from us about the issues and challenges facing seniors today—and how our society can support their efforts to age gracefully.
I would love to think that the reason both were drawn here is because of the depth of expertise we have on successful aging—that our living laboratory of how to support seniors to live independently and with dignity (and the support needed to stay that way) is the draw. After all, we are self-consciously an organization of reflective practitioners and we have a superb track record at providing housing that is desirable and well run. And we think of ourselves as unique in our ability to provide luxury-level supports for people of all incomes—possible because of the generosity of our donors who recognize the need for helping people where they want to be.
But that would not be an honest analysis of what makes JCHE a popular place for politicians to learn and engage. On election days, the dining room in our Brighton campus becomes the neighborhood polling place. We have a history and practice of extremely high voter turnout. Many of our residents are immigrants who prize their U.S. citizenship passionately. They understand the power of the ballot box and generally never miss an opportunity to exercise their hard-earned franchise.
Yet, it all fits together. Our leaders come here to talk with their constituents. Our exceptional volunteer-led ESL and citizenship classes provided the knowledge needed for these residents to become Americans and therefore eligible to vote. Our open forums in every election season help residents become educated about issues and candidates. Our translators literally bridge the communication gap between legislators and citizens who speak Russian, Cantonese and Mandarin. It’s an interconnected process – and the end result of information seeking and gathering is democracy.
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