Why older adults need to complete the census

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by Melanie Jongsma

LANSING, Ill. (April 4, 2020) – “I couldn’t be here without Senior Wheels,” Basil Booton told the crowd of municipal leaders gathered at a February Legislative Breakfast hosted by Bloom Township. “Bloom Township Senior Wheels—they keep me alive.”

Basil Booton says he couldn’t live without the Senior Wheels program. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

“I’m gonna use them four times this week,” Booton continued. “They got me here this morning. Tomorrow they’re taking me to the barbershop. Wednesday they’re taking me to the clinic. Friday they’re taking me shopping at Walt’s. I couldn’t live without them.”

The crowd smiled at his earnestness, but Booton was serious. For a widower no longer able to drive, and with no family nearby, a transportation service like Senior Wheels is a necessity.

Seated near Booton, Tom Welch agreed. “Senior Wheels is keeping me going now,” he said.

Diane Slezak, President of Age Options, used those testimonies as examples of why it is so important for communities to complete the 2020 Census. “I have had older people tell me, ‘I’m old; it doesn’t matter if I’m counted,’ but let me tell you, we really need every single person to be counted.” If seniors are under-represented in the count, then funding for Senior Wheels, senior lunches, the Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP), RTA Reduced Fare or Ride Free cards, senior exercise programs, and a variety of informational sessions is reduced or eliminated, which means all those programs diminish or disappear.

“If we don’t get the resources, everything is in jeopardy,” added Representative Will Davis, explaining that budget decisions will have to be made, and programs that seem to serve fewer people may get fewer dollars.

Representative Will Davis says census data affects budgeting decisions. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Slezak shared some statistics from the American Community Survey that was conducted 2013–2017, including these:

  • People over 60 make up 22% of the suburban Cook County population, up from 17% in 2000.
  • 41.4% of suburban Cook County seniors are householders who live alone.
  • In 2016, more than $34 billion in federal funding was directed to Illinois based on 2010 census data.

The 2020 Census can be completed online at my2020census.gov/.

For people who prefer using the phone, census takers are available at the following numbers:

  • English: 844-330-2020
  • Español: 844-468-2020