Gero-Punk Contemplation: Election Day

Isobel, my sixteen year old daughter, ditched school today. As it is Election Day, she wanted to work the phone-banks at the Democratic campaign headquarters in Portland. When she emailed one of her teachers to let him know why she’d not be attending his class, his response was, “Well, what you will be doing is much more important than what we will be doing!” Another teacher let Izzy know that she supports her efforts but she’d have to come to school early tomorrow in order to take a make-up Anthropology test.  So it goes.

I mentioned what Izzy’s up to on Facebook and my friend Tash wrote: “I would have loved to see someone Izzy’s age volunteering at my polling place! All the workers were 70+ — in no way a bad thing, but reminded me that the next generations must step up.  That includes me….This may be an activity to pursue once I get settled into a more permanent living situation. Certainly an opportunity to learn from/interact with older adults.”

As I was getting ready to head to campus for meetings and my afternoon class I received a text from Izzy which read “Holy shit!”  I thought–What, are there early campaign results? Did the Prez of the US stop by PDX headquarters to thank folks for keeping the dream of democracy alive and kicking? Did one of the persons whom received her friendly call reminding them to vote take offense and yell obscenities at her?

Here’s what actually happened:

Isobel was on the phone with an older person who lives down in Ashland, and it turns out that the person was waiting for an ambulance to collect them as they were having a medical emergency.  But what was most concerning to them, in the middle of the emergency, was that they wouldn’t be able to drop their ballot at the proper place in time for their vote to be counted. As Izzy wrote to me, they “wanted so badly to vote!”  Thinking quickly, Izzy suggested to the scared and sad woman that she put her ballot outside her house, promising her that someone at the Portland headquarters would find someone at the Ashland headquarters to go to her house and pick up the ballot and get it safely to where it needs to go.

Izzy just texted again: “Someone is en route to pick up the ballot.”


I’ve been contemplating all day about the recent (and oncoming) weather events on the East coast and their ongoing reverberations in the daily lives of so many humans and other creatures. I listen to the reports on the radio about old people trapped in their 12th floor apartments without electricity and water, and the strangers who assume the responsibility to help them stay alive.  I listen to the reports on the radio about the families who have flooded basements and no gasoline for their cars and are bracing themselves for the next storm and are making sure that their neighbors have what they need.  I listen to the reports on the radio about the enormous lengths to which folks are going to make sure that anyone who wants to has the chance to vote.

The confluence of Big Events of Consequence in the US— let me name only the aftermath of the major weather, and the uncertainty of the Presidential election –- remind me of how important it is to attend to that which I actually have some purview over: the wellness of my embodied mind; relationships; community; good work.

Someone on the radio this morning said that voting isn’t as crucial as having clean water to drink and food to eat and a warm place to stay.  But I’m not so sure about that. It sure feels to me like having the right and capacity to participate in the democratic process is about as fundamental as it gets.

Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in the great state of Oregon.  I can’t help but imagine that had Isobel been living 100 years ago, she’d have been fighting that good fight.

About Jenny Sasser, Ph.D.

I am a freelance educational gerontologist, writer, community activist and facilitator. I am former Chair of the Department of Human Sciences and Director of Gerontology at Marylhurst University. I joined the faculty as an adjunct member of the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program in 1997 and since that time, I've been involved in designing many on-campus and web-based courses and programs for adult learners, including in Gerontology. As an undergraduate I attended Willamette University, graduating Cum Laude in Psychology and Music; my interdisciplinary graduate studies at University of Oregon and Oregon State University focused on the Human Sciences, with specialization areas in adult development and aging, women’s studies, and critical social theory and alternative research methodologies. My dissertation became part of a book published in 1996 and co-authored with Dr. Janet Lee--Blood Stories: Menarche and the Politics of the Female Body in Contemporary US Society. Over the past twenty (or more!) years I have been involved in inquiry in the areas of creativity in later life; older women's embodiment; sexuality and aging; critical Gerontological theory; transformational adult learning practices; and inter-generational friendships and cross-generational collaborative inquiry. I am co-author, with Dr. Harry R. Moody of Aging: Concepts and Controversies (now in its 10th edition!) and first author, also with Moody, of the recently published Gerontology: The Basics, as well as author/co-author of several book chapters, articles and essays. I am on the Portland Community College Gerontology Program faculty.
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