Elderly Patients Face Tough Barriers When Votingby Lindsey Kay, MD | March 2, 2008
In this election year, it is important to recognize the barriers faced by some Americans in exercising their right to vote. Recent testimony before the US Senate Special Committee on Aging highlighted the impairments many senior citizens face in making it to the polls.
Many older adults live in long-term care facilities or are home bound. They are frequently unable to travel alone, and are dependent upon others to arrange for transportation to vote in elections. This support from family members or care providers is by no means guaranteed. Access to polling stations is highly variable across the nation, with no national regulations guaranteeing voting access.
In Australia and Canada, mobile polling stations are set up in hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and rural areas during national elections. The testimony given to the Senate encouraged the adoption of a similar program in the US.
As the number of Americans over the age of 65 is expected to double by the year 2030, we will see an equivalent rise in the number of people living in long-term care facilities and requiring assistance to perform activities of daily living, making national programs such as mobile polling stations even more important during election seasons.
It is imperative that family members and caregivers take the initiative to aid older patients in voting. Hopefully this testimony before Congress will result in a mobile polling system that will take the polls to the patients, enabling them to participate in elections freely. Until this is implemented, however, its up to you and me to make sure our elderly relatives and neighbors get the assistance they need to take part in choosing our leaders.
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