The Council on Older Persons (COOP) has been a standing committee of The Center for Community Solutions for more than 70 years. Each year brings new faces, new challenges and new opportunities. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year was no exception. Under the leadership of Chair Stacey O’Brien and Vice Chair Bert Rahl, COOP continues to be a leading advocate for local older adults.
Each year brings new faces, new challenges and new opportunities.
The organization maintained a healthy attendance at all of its meetings, both in-person and virtually. Members heard presentations from city, county and state officials who have the potential to impact issues that affect older adults, including:
- Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell, Cuyahoga County Council, Chair, Health, Human Services and Aging Committee
- City Councilwoman Jasmin Santana, Cleveland City Council, Member, Health and Human Services Committee
- Holly Holtzen, AARP Director for the State of Ohio
- City Councilman Basheer Jones, Cleveland City Council, Member, Health and Human Services Committee
- State Representative Stephanie Howse, Ranking Member, Ohio House Long-Term Care and Aging Committee
- Matt Carle, Esq., Executive Director, Ohio Public Transit Association
- Lorenzo Norris, Cleveland Clergy Alliance
- Tom Nobbe, Greater Cleveland Congregations
- Tara Britton, Director of Public Policy, The Center for Community Solutions
Many advocates were already concerned with the state of health and human services before the pandemic.
“Many advocates were already concerned with the state of health and human services before the pandemic. We have always known that seniors are a valuable part of the community, and that public policy priorities should reflect that. But the pandemic brought those issues into sharper focus, with the disproportionate impact on seniors, and the disproportionate impact on Black Americans and communities of color,” explained Stacey O’Brien, Chair of COOP. “I feel fortunate to be a part of COOP. Our members worked tirelessly to support local older adults to make sure that they had and continue to have the support they need to lead healthy, safe, and vibrant lives. But we must not rest on our laurels. The pandemic is still raging and it is incumbent upon advocates to continue to ensure that the voices of older adults are centered and visible during next year’s public policy decision making processes.”
Under the leadership of Program Committee Chair Marsha Blanks, COOP was also very active hosting events that would inform the community about issues affecting seniors. In April, COOP hosted a webinar in partnership with Community Solutions called “Social Isolation and Seniors During the Pandemic.” The webinar was attended by more than 100 guests, and featured presentations from Emily Muttillo from Community Solutions, Mary McNamara, Director of the City of Cleveland Department of Aging, and Jill Frankel, Director of the City of Solon Senior Center.
In the fall, leading up to the first presidential debate (which was held in Cleveland), COOP co-hosted a panel discussion in partnership with Eliza Bryant Village, called “Spotlight on Seniors: A Pre-Presidential Debate Panel.” The panel was moderated by Cecil Lipscomb, Executive Director of The United Black Fund of Greater Fund and First Vice-Chair of the Eliza Bryant Village Board of Trustees, and featured panelists:
- Diana Morris, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Case Western Reserve University, Eliza Bryant Village Board of Trustee
- Greg Hall, Board Member of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, Medical Director of Eliza Bryant Village
- Jason Smith, Interim State Manager of Advocacy, AARP Ohio
COOP was helpful in spreading awareness about the importance of participating in the U.S. Census.
Under the leadership of COOP Legislative Committee Chair Kendra Daniels, COOP also was active on issues of local policy, including raising awareness about Issue 33, the Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services levy. The levy passed with 70 percent approval. Additionally, COOP was helpful in spreading awareness about the importance of participating in the U.S. Census.
“This year was a very busy year in public policy, with the United States Census, the pandemic, the community outrage at the disparate treatment of Black Americans in the country, as well as a very busy general assembly,” said John Corlett, Executive Director and President of Community Solutions. “COOP did a great job of being a resource for information for advocates, policymakers, and citizens, to raise awareness about what needed to be done to make sure that seniors are supported. The Center for Community Solutions values our long-standing relationship with COOP, and we look forward to working with them in what will be a very busy budget year next year.”
COOP also was active at the state level, submitting a letter of support for the general assembly to declare racism as a public health crisis.
This year was not without loss, however, as a valuable former member, Ms. Mary O’Shea, passed away.
This year was not without loss, however, as a valuable former member, Ms. Mary O’Shea, passed away. Mary was a longtime member of COOP, when she worked at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, and she will be greatly missed.