It’s nearly Election Day, and America seems ready to go to the polls. But for seniors, voting is a right and a duty that can be difficult to exercise.
Advance paperwork and transportation issues can make it hard for seniors to actually get to their voting centers. Long lines can make the experience uncomfortable, discouraging some seniors from attempting to vote at all.
There are, however, ways to ease the burden. Here are five tips for helping the seniors in your life on Election Day:
- Locate your senior’s local voting center in advance. Most towns designate a specific voting center for each resident and mail out notifications. You can help enormously by researching the location. If the senior needs a polling location accessible for individuals with disabilities, find out where this is by contacting the local town hall. It might also be helpful to visit the voting center prior to Election Day so the senior can get see exactly where it is, locate the entrance and become familiar with the environment
- Review voting materials in advance with the senior. Most towns mail out information about where to vote, accessible polling locations and specific ballot questions during the months leading up to an election. Many also post this on their websites. Get your hands on this material and go through it with the senior, making sure he or she understands the procedures, signs up to use an accessible polling location if needed, and has enough information to decide which candidates and issues to support.
- Coordinate transportation for the senior to and from the voting center. A carpool or ride from family, friends or neighbors may be necessary on Election Day. Arrange this ahead of time, deciding who will drive, what time the senior will be picked up at home, and what time he or she will be dropped off after voting. If the senior will be taking a taxi or public transportation, research schedules and locate the senior’s stop in advance. Make sure there’s a backup plan the senior is comfortable with, such as a relative or neighbor to call, in case there’s an unforeseen problem catching the bus or the train.
- Plan to have the senior vote at a time of day when the polls won’t be crowded. Crowds mean standing in line for long periods and potentially getting jostled. This is uncomfortable for anybody, but can be especially difficult for seniors. Rush hours in the early morning and early evening should be avoided. So should lunchtime. Quieter times would be late morning or early afternoon. And no matter what time the senior plans to vote, it’s a good idea to bring a light folding chair, water, snacks and medications just in case there is a line.
- Turn voting day into a special event. After all, it’s an important day and the senior you care for will be proud to have participated. Plan an outing if possible after he or she has cast a ballot: lunch, a movie or a walk in town. This will help make voting an experience to look forward to, and whatever outing you choose will create fond memories of Election Day.
For seniors, voting does bring special challenges. But it is an important event and can bring real satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment for your senior loved one.