Op-Ed Chicago’s Mayoral Candidates Must Address Older Adults’ Priorities

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Timely AARP IL survey shows voters concerned about affordability, considering leaving city

By Bob Gallo

Chicago voters have more than a half dozen Chicago mayoral candidates – with varying
backgrounds and priority lists – to choose from when they head to the polls between
now and February 26.

Thankfully, the mindset and priorities of Chicago residents are far less scattered.
A recent survey by AARP Chicago asked older adults what issues are on their minds,
and what areas of concern they want addressed by the city’s next leader.

With 250,000 AARP members in Chicago alone, these are findings the candidates
simply cannot ignore, especially given that residents over the age of 50 consistently
vote in higher numbers. In fact, 89 percent of our respondents said they planned to vote
in this election.

Affordability, availability of essential services and public safety were top concerns for
the registered voters age 50 and older interviewed in December for the survey, which
was conducted by phone in English and Spanish, regardless of whether or not
respondents were AARP members.

Chicago’s older voters want the cost of living in Chicago to go down. More than
half (53%) of Chicago voters 50 and older worry, at least from time to time, about not being able to stay in Chicago due to financial reasons. Among the 44% who have
considered leaving Chicago in the past year, the top two reasons are wanting lower
overall cost of living (87%) and lower taxes (83%).

Chicago’s older voters want a leader with a plan for reducing violence and crime.

Chicago crime has increased in the last five years, according to the perceptions of 61%
of the voters surveyed. Among voters 50-plus who have considered leaving Chicago in
the past year, 80% say it because they want to live in a safer community or one with
lower crime rate.

Chicago’s older voters want a new mayor looking out for their needs. At least
three-quarters of voters age 50+ in Chicago indicate that it is very important to them to
hear from candidates on how they plan to ensure essential services are available for the
elderly and vulnerable. The voters also want to hear candidates’ positions on education
and the economy.

Last week, AARP Chicago conducted a telephone town hall with 5,000 of our members
to allow older adults to share their experiences in the city and what they wanted the
candidates to know and address. We heard stories of fear of losing one’s home and the
stress of more and more costs and fees placed on older residents in the city. Members talked about how they feel they can’t walk to the grocery store or visit the park with their
grandchildren because of violence in their neighborhoods. And they talked about
essential services leaving their communities — services such as mental health clinics,
in-home care caregiving, and health services –especially in black and brown
neighborhoods.

Our members were clear: they want the mayoral candidates to address these issues
head on.

Whomever is chosen to lead Chicago next cannot continue to ignore the issues
important to older adults. In the last week, AARP Chicago sat down one-on-one with
nine of the 14 mayoral candidates, presenting them with these survey results. We
encourage those 50+ and their families to join us in demonstrating the power and
influence of this voting bloc by participating in our community forums on March 13 and
18, and by visiting AARPIL.org to learn about other ways to make Chicago a vibrant and
livable city for people of all ages.

Older adults in Chicago, do not let the long list of mayoral candidates confuse you. This
mayoral election has one deciding factor: you.

Bob Gallo is the State Director of AARP ILLINOIS, with offices in both Chicago
and Springfield. AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, a nonpartisan
organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how
they live as they age. There are 1.7 AARP Members in Illinois, and nearly 250,000
in Chicago.

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