More than half of the voters in Tuesday’s mayoral election will be over 50 years old. That’s how it played out in 2009’s election, and that’s why the AARP is shifting its outreach approach this time around. Beth Finkel, AARP New York’s state director, says,
“We’re changing things up a bit, and for the first time, truly going local with the issues and our voter engagement efforts.”
But rather than try and take the election’s results into their own hands by endorsing a candidate, Finkel and local AARP representatives like Chris Widelo, 38, have pledged to provide factual analysis of where candidates stand.
Widelo says it doesn’t matter that de Blasio has the race wrapped up. “Whether it’s a close race or not, we see it as an opportunity to educate the candidates and the population about what concerns the 50-plus demographic,” Widelo says. To that end, Widelo and his team are producing AARP voter guides to provide an easy look at where candidates stand.
AARP has focused their attention on four issues: caregiving, older workers, financial security and livable communities. “We want people to be able to age in place,” says Widelo. “What you don’t need today—a handicap-access ramp, crosswalks—could be a crucial part of your life in thirty years.” AARP is also seeking financial security for caregivers, those that live with or look after senior citizens who have lost mobility with age. This could include benefits packages or contracts that guarantee professional caregivers the means to continue their work full-time.
But Widelo says the most important issue for New York’s older generation may be job security. Age discrimination is a big issue, he says, and older jobseekers give up the search faster than their younger counterparts. He says these concerns are bipartisan, unattached to Republican or Democratic agendas.
Widelo is focusing on the Bronx this year. After AARP organized a debate at Fordham University for the Council District 15 candidates, Widelo saw the benefit in distributing the voter guides beyond their particular demographic. “People are starting to realize the how big of a group it is,” he says. “One in every two voters could be an AARP member.” There are 453,000 AARP members in New York City alone.
Come Election Day, Widelo and team will be making the rounds to voting booths across the city. They’ll distribute their guides to any and all voters who are more interested in being educated than they are in being persuaded.