With over 50 percent of votes cast in the February election deriving from voters 55 or older, this demographic holds significant weight in deciding which mayoral runoff candidate will take office.
In an effort to ensure all Chicagoans’ concerns were addressed in the final week before Election Day, AARP Illinois hosted Voters 50+ Spoke Up and We Listened, a virtual community forum highlighting the concerns of older constituents.
“AARP Illinois is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that doesn’t endorse candidates, but we have a long history of providing our members and voters 50+ with accurate information to make informed decisions in their local elections,” said Álvaro Obregón, Associate State Director of AARP Illinois.
Obregón was joined by Edgar Ramírez, President and CEO of Chicago Commons; Claude Robinson, President of Onyx Strategic Partners, LLC; and Abe Scarr, State Director of Illinois PIRG as panelists for the Tuesday evening event. The group took turns answering questions submitted by video from local AARP members. Publisher of IL Latino News, Hugo Balta, moderated the conversation.
“Throughout this election cycle, we’ve heard from hundreds of our members in Chicago about what matters most to them – things like affordability, and being able to age in place in their communities, access to essential services and improvements that foster the ability of our older adults to participate in community life. Community organizations like Chicago Commons, Illinois PIRG and Onyx Strategic Solutions, LLC. live and breathe these issues every day and so it was very important to bring them together to address the issues experienced by voters 50+, and weigh in on possible solutions for the next mayor to prioritize,” said Obregón.
For Chicagoans 50 and over, crime is the number one issue determining their vote in the runoff election. According to a poll by AARP Illinois, 89 percent said a candidate’s stance on crime and violence is “very important,” and 88% percent that they have considered leaving the city to move to a safer community with a lower crime rate in the past year.
The most recent findings from other organizations also highlight crime as the number one issue for all Chicagoans, including 52 percent of participants of an Emerson College poll and 50 percent of a Northwestern University poll. The latter broke down results to show that 49 percent of Latino, 53 percent of Black and 50 percent of white voters reported crime as the most important issue.
Essential services were vocalized as a concern in both the poll and during the community forum, with seven in ten 50+ voters saying that a candidate’s stance on essential services for older adults, people with disabilities and low-income families would impact their vote. This includes mental health services, community-based services and access to quality healthcare.
AARP member and Avalon Park resident Karen Price asked the panel about providing services for older adults and supporting caregivers who juggle tending to their families and working.
The conversation hit close to home for many of the panelists who are caregivers themselves.
“As a Latino, it’s embedded in our culture. We take care of our own,” said Balta.
“This is what we do,” agreed Ramírez.
He said that these services are essential for not only seniors, but the city itself.
“It’s time that we invest and invest critically in these services, make known the services that are available currently for seniors in the city, but also look to policy change…” he said.
For just over 30 minutes, the group addressed and discussed other issues like neighborhood safety and accessibility for aging Chicagoans and intergenerational collaboration and understanding.
“Candidates seeking office must listen to the needs of the people; all of the people. Voters 50+ Spoke Up and We Listened and events like it ensure constituents are heard on issues seldom covered by mass media,” said Balta, on the event. “Older voters determined the outcome of the last election and will do so again on April 4.”
Editor’s Notes: To assist constituents in this election, AARP Illinois has prepared a Chicago Voter Hub, including a voter guide available in English and Spanish. Run-off Election Day for Chicago’s 2023 Municipal Election is April 4th, 2023.
Cover photo: Connor Betts for Unsplash