The Oklahoma Silver Haired Legislature (OSHL) convened at the State Capitol on Tuesday. During their two-day session, the organization will pass legislation that they ultimately hope to win approval for in the State Legislature. One of their first orders of business was a presentation by Sen. Harry Coates. Coates said he was honored to be asked to address the organization.
“The Silver Haired Legislature has brought some important issues before the State Legislature and worked tirelessly to help get them passed. They have championed issues like the Living Will, the Spousal Impoverishment Act, and many more important bills to improve the quality of life for older Oklahomans,” Coates said.
Sen. Coates, R-Seminole, was introduced to OSHL by Chandler resident Chaarles Sweet, secretary for the OSHL alumni. He told the members that Sen. Coates had been a strong advocate for Oklahoma seniors.
Coates said he was shocked by some of the statistics on older Americans. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, half of all women age 75 and older live alone. In 2004, about 416,000 grandparents 65 or older had the primary responsibility for their grandchildren. Coates told the members that the Census Bureau also reported that for one-third of Americans over 65, Social Security benefits constitute 90 percent of their income.
“I think one of the reasons I am so aware of the concerns of older Oklahomans is because of my maternal grandfather. My family was worried about him being alone at night. Since I was the oldest boy, I’d go over and spend the night at his house to make sure he was okay. I did that until I graduated from high school. It was a big responsibility, but also a wonderful opportunity to spend time with my grandfather,” Coates said.
“I told the members of OSHL that my grandfather had three big concerns. His independence was very important to him. So was the loss of income, something that happens to many people when they retire. He was also terribly concerned about his ability to pay for healthcare. That was 40 years ago, yet those issues are just as important to seniors today as they were then,” Coates said.
Sen. Coates shared some of the key measures passed during the 2005 legislative session, including greater access to lower cost prescription drugs, tax relief, as well as criminal background checks for non-licensed nursing home employees and a grandparents’ rights bill.
“I’m proud of what was accomplished this past session and I’m looking forward to working with OSHL in 2006 to pass more legislation on behalf of older Oklahomans,” Coates said. “To me, it comes down to what kind of future we want for our state. If we want it to be the best it can be, then we must address the needs of our seniors.”