In the state of Washington, a group of women seeking financial assistance with dental care formed "The Molar Majority" coalition and succeeded with their cause.
The women dressed up as molars and distributed literature to legislators. As a result of their good-natured activism, the state and federal governments funded a program to subsidize dental care for low-income men and women.This is just one example of effective activism to improve economic status, presented Tuesday during an "Older Women's" conference by Nancy Amidei, former assistant in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
Another national expert on women's issues, Nancy Hooyman, dean of the University of Washington School of Social Work, addressed the conference, telling women,"Older women clearly have power as activists. As women unite to work for change, they can make further progress in reducing the disadvantages of their economic and social position.
"Changes in women's care-giving and employment roles will ultimately serve to insure the autonomy of both younger and older women so neither generation must make excessive sacrifices in providing care to dependents."
The conference, held at the University Park Hotel, featured many national experts in the field of health and economic needs of elderly women.
Their purpose: As Mother's Day approaches, to affirm that women who have devoted much of their lives to the critical but unpaid roles of care-giver and homemaker are entitled to economic security, medical benefits, decent living arrangements and dignity.
Amidei stressed the sad irony of an older woman's plight.
"We say we honor and value women in their roles as caretakers as mothers, grandmothers, wives but we don't want to pay for their care. We build our system of economic security on what we earn. But an older woman's reward for a lifetime of caretaking too often is poverty."
The issue of aging has become primarily a woman's issue, she said.
She encouraged Utah women to become peaceful activists by phoning political representatives in Washington, D.C., lobbying Utah legislators and using their imaginations to capture the attention of the media.
She used the example of women in Colorado to inspire constructive, positive action within society's establishment.
Colorado women organized to encourage physicians to agree to accept Medicaid patients without charging extra fees. When only six doctors signed up, the group turned the apparent defeat into a victory by inviting local politicians and reporters to honor the six doctors for their compassion. After news stories celebrated the event, dozens of Colorado doctors agreed to join their colleagues in providing economical health care to elderly women.
A group of older women in Washington, D.C., baked cakes for politicians with "Cut the cake, not the C.O.L.A. (cost of living adjustment)" written in icing. It worked. The COLA was not reduced, said Amidei.
Hooyman advocated that older women use their social resources to overcome economic and health care obstacles.
More women are displaying resilience and innovativeness in surviving losses in their lives. Women who live alone are not necessarily unhappy.
"Women have fewer economic resources but more social resources than older men. With their lifelong experiences of caring for others, older women tend to be skilled at forming and sustaining friendships with each other.
"As women unite to work for change, they can make further progress in reducing the disadvantages of their economic and social positions."