By Megan Sayles
Special to the AFRO
While co-hosting the Larry Young Morning Show, longtime community activist Marvin “Doc” Cheatham received some discouraging news on air. A 75-year-old Marylander called in to inform Young and Cheatham that his Johns Hopkins Medicare Advantage Plan was being canceled, and he had to begin a search for alternative health insurance.
It turns out he wasn’t the only older adult encountering this dilemma. After the show aired, more individuals began calling in to say the same thing happened to them.
Cheatham, who is president of the Matthew A. Henson Neighborhood Association, decided to host a town hall so that older adults could voice their concerns. However, their grievances were not just about health insurance. They ranged from transportation issues to experiencing retaliation after making complaints to landlords.
It was clear to Cheatham that something needed to be done to address the problems older adults were facing, so he and his colleagues have started United Seniors, a Baltimore organization that works to produce solutions for older adults and activate legislators to use policy to improve conditions for older adults.
“We’re going to come to the table, and we’re going to tell you these seniors deserve better treatment,” said Cheatham. “It’s going to start with our project United Seniors.”
In speaking with older adults, United Seniors has identified several significant issues that need to be addressed. Many of them surround landlord and tenant relationships.
Some older adults have had landlords withhold their security deposits. Others face poor building conditions, and repairs are not being made in a timely manner.
United Seniors, which is an outreach entity of the Matthew Henson Community Development Corporation, is working to build a directory of resources that older adults can depend on when they encounter a problem. The listing will outline reliable services that are available to older adults.
The organization has also created a weekly radio show called Soup and Salad with Seniors, which airs on WOLB 1010 AM. During the broadcast, older adults have the opportunity to call in and discuss the issues and challenges they are experiencing. The call-in number is 410-481-1010.
After amassing the complaints, United Seniors will organize and call on politicians to reform policy for older adults so that they have better access to resources and services that engender a good life.
“A lot of elected officials, city council members, senators, and delegates have not really involved themselves in the communities that they represent to the degree that they understand the plight of seniors,” said Cheatham. “They have no understanding as to what these people go through every day.”
Although United Seniors is in its embryonic stages, the organization has already gotten Mayor Brandon Scott to issue a new listing for the Commission on the Aging and Retirement Education (CARE), which previously listed members whose terms had expired and a member who had died.
In March, United Seniors will hold a candidate forum where politicians will have the chance to speak to older adults. Candidates will only be allowed entry if they have an agenda to improve the situation for older adults, have a Black agenda, and a plan to fight food deserts in Baltimore.
“We’re going to show that we’re going to have an impact on elections because senior citizens are the ones that basically do most of the voting, and we’re going to be able to give ideas to seniors on who is supporting us and who is not,” said Cheatham.
Help us Continue to tell OUR Story and join the AFRO family as a member – subscribers are now members! Join here!