Silver-haired Legislature

Silver-Haired Legislature members Sue Walters (left) and Marty Bryson Horton represent Marshall County.

Resolutions allowing nursing home residents to have cameras in their rooms and removing state sales tax for groceries and medications for seniors are among the top pieces of legislation that the Alabama Silver-Haired Legislature hope to see passed during the state legislature’s next session.

In 1991, the Silver-Haired Legislature was established in Alabama to support the passage of legislation designed to help improve the quality of life for the elderly. The nation’s first Silver-Haired Legislature was created in Missouri in 1973.

Each year, a mock legislative session is conducted in Montgomery to educate seniors on the legislative process and pass resolutions concerning Alabama’s seniors. In the final session, members identify the top-10 issues and submit them to the Governor and the Alabama Legislature to consider for actual legislation.

Marty Bryson Horton (District 26) and Sue Walters (District 28), both of Boaz, represent the Sand Mountain area. Horton has served nine 2-year terms. Walters is in her first term. With many advocating the well-being of seniors across Alabama, Horton thinks the resolutions submitted to the Legislature could pass, but she said one can never be too sure.

The top-10 resolutions that could become law include:

1. Assistance to grandparents who are raising their grandchildren in their homes.

Walters said seeing grandparents having to raise their grandchildren is a growing trend that is often unaffordable.

“You wouldn’t believe how many are having to take care of their grandchildren,” Walters said. “We just want to help them in some way.”

Horton said it was especially necessary considering many grandparents are considered “living in poverty.” If passed, Horton said the assistance would be given through a grant program.

2. Tuition reimbursement or assistance for medical students specializing in geriatric medicine.

3. Remove the state sales tax for groceries and medications for senior citizens.

4. Allow nursing home residents to have video cameras in their rooms.

Horton said an issue with this resolution being passed into law would be, in some in cases, there are two residents living in one room. Also, some believe it is an invasion of privacy, but Horton said having cameras would help fight against elder abuse.

“People don’t know all of this, but sometimes the elderly are mistreated in nursing homes,” Horton said. “I’ve been told on some occasions that residents are given medication to make them sleep a lot.”

5. Training to educate on how to prepare for a flood, tornado or hurricane.

6. Personal caregivers to be vetted: background check and certification.

7. Inspection reports of nursing homes and assisted living facilities made public.

8. Alabama Legislature to provide funding for the Silver-Haired Legislature to cover expenses. Currently, the Silver-Haired Legislature receives supplemental funding with additional funds coming from other departments, but delegates often underwrite many of their own expenses.

9. Yellow Dot program available in all Alabama Counties. The “Yellow Dot” program provides detailed medical information that can be crucial following a crash. Participants of the program receive a “Yellow Dot” decal, a “Yellow Dot” folder and an information form with the participant’s name, an identifying photo, emergency contact information, personal physicians’ information, medical conditions, recent surgeries, allergies and medications being used. A “Yellow Dot” decal on the driver’s side rear window of a vehicle alerts first responders to check in the glove compartment for the corresponding “Yellow Dot” folder.

10. Lower prescription drug cost for senior citizens.

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