ASHL promotes senior issues

Published 12:37 am Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mary Jo Martin is this area’s representative to the Alabama Silver-Haired Legislature, an elected group of people, 60 and older who advocate senior issues in the Alabama state legislature in Montgomery.

Among the issues that the ASHL is taking a look at this session are Silver Alert systems that help track missing senior citizens and finding ways to ease medicine costs.

“The Silver-Haired Legislature started in Missouri in 1973 out of a need to have an advocate to represent the issues and concerns of seniors,” Martin said. “There are 29 other states that have Silver-Haired Legislatures. The Alabama Silver-Haired Legislature began in 1993.”

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The Silver Alert — patterned after the Amber Alert for children — would issue a statewide warning when a senior citizen is missing or believed to be lost. Like the Amber Alert, the Silver Alert would issue a description of the person and where he was last seen. The state of Florida enacted its Silver Alert last October.

Martin is the representative for the 67th District, which includes Marengo County.

The ASHL meets at the same time as the Alabama Legislature, working side-by-side with state legislators to enact legislation to aid senior citizens.

“Something else we are advocating is the Honor Flight,” Martin said. “These are for veterans, and it allows them to take a flight out of Birmingham or Montgomery to Washington, D.C., all expenses paid. If you’re disabled or in a wheelchair, they will get you on a plane and have somebody to help you get off the plane and take you to a bus to take you to the World War II Memorial. The Honor Flight is for the World War II veterans — the few who are left — and it’s free.”

Martin said the planes have constantly been full, but is funded through donations, which have decreased recently.

“Several of the veterans I have known about, I’ve helped get them out there,” she said. “I’d be glad to help any of them.”

Prior to the state legislature meeting, ASHL members write resolutions to be brought before the state legislature. Just before going to Montgomery, ASHL members are assigned to a committee. Committee members work together to put together bill proposals for the state legislature.

Members of the Alabama Silver-Haired Legislature will be up for election on May 5. Elections will be held at senior centers across the state.

As more and more people reach retirement age, the issues regarding senior citizens become more and more prevalent. The Alabama Silver-Haired Legislature helps bring these issues closer to reality.