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Make respect for older Americans a political priority

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The elderly were once the most-important and well-organized voting bloc in Boston. Not anymore.

Raymond L.
Flynn

I spent three days last week, including Christmas, in two of Boston's top hospitals. Not as a patient, but with one of my daughters. Not only do you get a good sense of how busy hospitals are, but also how things work and how they should work. You also get the opportunity to talk to some pretty dedicated people as well as to some courageous and frightened people.

The stories you hear are not the ones you read about in the newspapers or listen to on the evening news. But the most compelling tales I heard came from struggling elderly people.

Hearing all their stories and seeing so much pain, you get a true perspective about our diverse city. The stories you hear are not about trendy restaurants on the waterfront, First Night or the Patriots. Rather, they are about how difficult it is for senior citizens to pay the bills and get by. And their concerns aren't reflected by political polls or government policies.

Not surprisingly, even though they may personally like their elected officials and vote for them, in many cases, many elderly people disagree strongly with their political stances. And they feel that politicians prefer to pander to well-organized and well-financed special interest groups.

The elderly were once the most-important and well-organized voting bloc in Boston. Not anymore. These days they have lost much of their influence, and we don't hear much from elected officials in Washington or the state talking about helping them like we once did. The Kennedys, Johnsons, McCormacks and Kevin Whites aren't around anymore.

So I have a suggestion as we move into the new year. But it's going to take your active support to make it happen. As mayors, governors and national elected officials prepare to make their annual speeches in January, they should promise to make 2015 the year when respect for our older Americans becomes a political priority once again.

Start with the goal of building more elderly housing; the current shortage is a scandal. Encourage young medical students to make home visits to elderly shut-ins, under the sponsorship of local agencies and churches.

Politicians have gotten away with playing to special interest groups long enough. It's time America made a personal contract with our elderly once again. Let's make 2015 the Year of the Elderly in America.

RAYMOND L. FLYNN IS A FORMER MAYOR OF BOSTON AND A FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE VATICAN.

Raymond L. Flynn is the former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See and Mayor of Boston.

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