Silver-hair Legislature seeks better options for ailing elderly

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 5, 2006

Before the Alabama State Legislature begins its 2006 session, the Alabama Silver Haired Legislature plans to let their voices be heard.

The Silver Haired Legislature, which includes local member Drew Johnson, met in October to discuss the needs of seniors in Alabama. The group discussed 60 resolutions before choosing their top issues.

Several issues needed to be addressed, Johnson said, starting with the document guiding the state.

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“We definitely feel the constitution for the state of Alabama should be rewritten,” Johnson said. “We also feel there is a need for more support of our elderly people to help them get medical care.”

Funding for nutritional needs of homebound seniors was another issue. The program, also known as “Meals on Wheels,” does not always serve people who live in rural areas.

Johnson said they would like to see the program expand its service.

“This is a program we would like to see extended to serve people in some of the rural areas,” Johnson said. “There are a lot of people who live in isolated areas who aren’t a part of this program.”

The ASHL also looked at putting a priority to allow Medicaid seniors to remain where they can be close to family and friends instead of nursing homes.

ASHL Speaker Bill Adams said ailing and elderly low-income citizens “should be able to remain in familiar environments instead of in an institution.”

Continuing support for the SeniorRX program, which helps needy seniors apply for free prescription drugs from pharmaceutical companies was another hot topic.

The ASHL is open to seniors 60 or older who represent each of the state’s 105 legislative districts. Adams said the ASHL’s role is to “speak for seniors of Alabama, helping the legislature understand their needs and issues.” Adams added he hoped the legislature would “make the ASHL recommendations state law. They owe it to Alabama seniors.”

The October meetings, Johnson said, were an enlightening experience.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the meetings,” Johnson said. “It gave us an opportunity to get together and look at the issues we felt were appropriate.”

Johnson said he would like to see the legislature address their issues, but knew there was only so much funding available.

“There is only so much pie out there,” Johnson said. “We all have to share it. The young people need it, the working people need it and the elderly need it. WE just have to figure out how to best use the pie that we have.”