Older Adults
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Council on Older Persons perseveres on policy change during pandemic

Will Tarter
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January 3, 2022
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When elected officials and civic organizations need a place to turn for feedback and ideas, when advocates look to a place to exchange events and collaboration opportunities, they turn to The Council on Older Persons (COOP). COOP has been in existence for over 70 years and continues to be a leading voice for older adults in Greater Cleveland.

 COOP is the last remaining advisory group from the predecessors to The Center for Community Solutions, the Welfare Federation and the Federation for Community Planning.

COOP is the last remaining advisory group from the predecessors to The Center for Community Solutions, the Welfare Federation and the Federation for Community Planning. Last year, with the onset of the pandemic, COOP maneuvered an uncertain public policy landscape by meeting virtually and continually engaging members, even as they experienced the effects of the pandemic in their own organizations. Yet, COOP maintained its vigilance in ensuring that older adults are recognized and prioritized when major public policy decisions are made at the city, county, and state levels.

COOP engaged government and community officials in capstone Senior Forum

Under the leadership of Chair Stacey O’Brien and Vice Chair Bert Rahl, COOP has continued its standard of excellence by educating and engaging public officials and community officials at all levels of government.  

Its premiere achievement this past year was when COOP hosted the 2021 Senior Forum with City of Cleveland mayoral candidates Justin Bibb and Kevin Kelley, sponsored by the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging and the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging. COOP provided each candidate with a fact sheet on the current state of older adults across the city and the state. The virtual event was moderated by COOP Chair Stacey O’Brien and was attended by over 70 individuals, representing older adults who live, work, and visit the City of Cleveland. The dialogue centered on issues important to older adults including transportation, job opportunities, safety, food insecurity, housing and many others. With the election of Mayor-Elect Bibb, COOP hopes to continue to be in touch with the new administration as they put their policy goals into action.  

Members also heard presentations at meetings from:

  • State Senator Steve Wilson, Ohio Senate, District 7
  • State Representative Stephanie Howse, Ranking Member, Ohio House Long-Term Care and Aging Committee
  • State Representative Beth Manchester, Chair, Ohio House Families, Aging, and Human Services Committee
  • Beth Liston, Ranking Member, Ohio House Families, Aging, and Human Services Committee
  • Beth Kowalczyk, Ohio Association for Advancement Aging
  • Dorothy Baunach, Digital C
  • Mental health organization representatives
  • And many more!
 The pandemic has disproportionately impacted older adults, both in Ohio and across the country.

COOP spoke out against exploitation of Ohio’s older adults

COOP also submitted written testimony regarding the state transportation budget, as well as Senate Bill 54, which would increase penalties for those who financially exploit Ohio’s older adults.  

The pandemic has disproportionately impacted older adults, both in Ohio and across the country,” said Stacey O’Brien, Chair of the Council on Older Persons. “As the country wrestles with yet another strain of the COVID-19 virus, it is the responsibility of advocates and organizations that serve older adults to ensure that public officials take the appropriate steps to protect the physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being of our country’s older adult population. COOP plays a key role in the dissemination of information, as well as feedback and input on quality of life that are central to the dignity of older adults.” O’Brien continued, “I am grateful that COOP’s members continue to maintain their active participation and support of this vital organization. I also want to acknowledge and thank our institutional supporters, McGregor Foundation, Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging, the Benjamin Rose Institute, and the Cuyahoga County Department of Senior and Adult Services, whose support is vital to our work.”

Nine COOP council members conclude their service

The year also brought the conclusion of service terms for several COOP members, who have served on the council for 10 years or more. Members that will end their terms in December include Stacey O’Brien, Semanthie Brooks, Georgia Anetzberger, Andrea Price, Janice Dzigiel, Maria Foschia, Melanie Hogan, Sarah Parran, and Tom Gannon.

Council on Older Persons will remained engaged in community conversations in 2022

Looking to 2022, the Council on Older Persons (COOP) will continue to play an active role in civic and community engagement, including engagement with candidates who are running for Cuyahoga County Executive, as well as other elected offices.

 COOP has built a reputation of being the leading convener of representatives from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, to advance the needs of older adults in Greater Cleveland.

COOP has built a reputation of being the leading convener of representatives from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, to advance the needs of older adults in Greater Cleveland,” said John Corlett, President and Executive Director of The Center for Community Solutions. “Today’s members of COOP build on the legacy of those who have served before them by ensuring aging members of each generation know that their interests and opinions are respected and represented in community conversations. We expect next year to be a very busy year for COOP. In addition to being highly engaged citizens, older adults also have some of the highest percentages of voting representation, so COOP will continue to play a major role in educating public officials before and after Election Day. Community Solutions is proud to partner and continue to support COOP in their activities.”  

In 2022, COOP will be chaired by Bert Rahl, who has previously served as vice chair of the organization. Marsha Blanks will become the new vice chair.

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