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Advocacy is simple and effective

In March, the White House announced the president’s budget recommendations for the coming year, including significant funding reductions to services that help older adults age successfully.

Obviously, I am passionate about issues that affect older adults, so I was pleased to receive a lot of calls and emails from folks who were concerned and wanted to “fight back.” These words were quickly followed by, “But I don’t know how to do it.”

As I have written previously,for each of us to age successfully, all four columns of our lives (mind, body, spirit, community) have to be strong. Advocating for the things that are important to you is an essential tool for building and maintaining your community.

It is critical that your voice be heard. Your government leaders need to know what you consider important. Best of all, they want to know your thoughts on what they are doing and should be doing. Constituents really can sway the decisions of lawmakers!

Advocacy is simple and works in any situation, whether you are trying to share your thoughts with your local officials, state legislators or Congress. Be informed. Do a little bit of research. Read or listen to a variety of news sources so you can learn more about the issue at hand. Map out exactly what you want to express. Write down your thoughts. Keep your message simple, clear and succinct. Use personal experiences and statistics to support your opinion. For example: “Within a few years, almost half of the population in my community will be over the age of 60. This makes services for older adults critical. I have seen how important they are for my mom, and the difference it makes for all of us.

The serviceslike the ones the president is proposing to reduce have been proven in numerous studies to result in healthier, happier older adults, keeping them out of the hospital and nursing homes. For the cost of one day in the hospital, Senior Citizens Inc.’s Meals on Wheels program can feed an older adult in their home for an entire year. Therefore, now is the time to be making an investment in these programs, not a reduction!”

Get the contact information for those you want to reach. You can find email addresses, phone numbers and mailing addresses at www.legis.ga.gov for Georgia’s state legislators and www.congress.gov for both your U.S. senators and representatives. Or you can call Senior Citizens Inc. at 912-236-0363 and we’ll be happy to find the appropriate contact information for you. Make contact! Emailing or making a phone call is the fastest way to share your thoughts. While written correspondence is effective, it can take more than two weeks to make it through the screening system. If you make a phone call, keep in mind that you will probably be talking to an intern or assistant, so be clear about why you are contacting their boss. Have your notes in front of you for easy referral. Always be polite and remember what your mom said about catching more flies with honey than vinegar. Say thank you. It’s that whole honey-vinegar thing again!

Now that you know how easy it is, teach your friends. This is one of the situations in which numbers make a difference. Of course, I hope you’ll join me in advocating for all of us to age successfully. However, regardless of what you choose to champion, I make you this promise: just like writing this column has for me, advocating for the issues you care about gets easier each time you do it. You’ll also feel good for having done it and you will have helped your community. Oh, and thank you for reading!