In a few days, it will be February, Black History Month in the U.S.A. –  a month to honor and reflect on the contributions and history of black people.  Sadly, much of the history of black people in and out of the U.S.A. has been one of oppression. 

The Civil Rights Acts tried to overcome racial oppression and inequality through legislation. The acts also tried to overcome the oppression of people based on age.

A friend drew my attention to the guest essay entitled “A Good Place to Grow Up and Grow Old” in the last issue of the RoundTable, which she felt was in contradiction to what I had told her about the mistreatment of a senior citizen in the Walchirk Apartments, (a low and moderate-income senior and disabled citizens residence located at 2300 Noyes Court in Evanston.) 

Two articles appeared in the RoundTable in 2014 about the renovation of two senior residences: “City, County to Renovate Perlman and Walchirk Senior Apartments (Sept. 25); and “Major Rehabs for Perlman and Walchirk Apartments.” (Nov.5). 

The September article reads: “… Residents will be offered the option of relocating within the building…and will be able to return to their renovated unit after construction has been completed.”

During the relocation of one 88 year-old woman by Cook County’s contracted relocation service to a temporary apartment in November 2015, the wood frame of her sofa was cracked, her end-table damaged, and her living room rug thrown away.  She sent a letter about the damage and loss to the relocation service in November 2015 for which she was criticized for possibly making an employee lose his/her job and told that she could not have written the letter.  She was also criticized for “making so much over an old sofa.”  This senior resident was told at first that she would not be able to return to her renovated apartment but later told that there was no money for the move; that she could have friends/family move her or pay to be moved. 

 A residential employee felt he was complimenting her by saying she had such good sense to be so old.  Unfortunately, what this employee said exemplifies the attitude many people have toward senior citizens.  The assumption is that “old people” are not able to think and thereby are not aware of when they’re being insulted or mistreated.  This attitude is disrespectful, abusive and shameful and not the attitude held by many other countries.

“You can judge a nation by the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens.” …attributed to Aristotle.

A senior who moved out of her Evanston apartment in July 2015 told me that she has still not received a refund of her deposit.  When an Evanston resident told me about the mistreatment of a senior in an Evanston nursing home, I told her that there was an ombudsman (=an advocate “appointed by the government…who is charged with representing the interest of the public by investigating and addressing complaints of maladministration or a violation of rights.”) for residents of Evanston’s long-term care facilities   She did not know that. 

 I thought to myself, “There is one, at least in name.”

“…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” … Last speech of Hubert H. Humphrey.)

The Civil Rights Acts are only effective when respected and enforced.

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...