Older voters are the deciders in Philadelphia’s elections, and the status quo is not working for them. According to data from the Philadelphia City Commissioners Office, voters ages 50 and over comprised 63.38 percent of all Philadelphia voters during the 2015 open mayoral primary election and 61.23 percent in the 2019 mayoral primary. Philadelphians aged 50-plus vote at roughly double the rate of the total population in the city.
And according to a recent poll conducted for AARP, older Philadelphia voters are unsatisfied with the job the mayor and City Council are doing and are ready to usher in new leadership with new ideas. That poll also found that 52 percent of 50+ Philadelphia voters have considered leaving their neighborhood within the past year, citing safety, crime, housing affordability and public transportation the top issues this election.
Philadelphians aged 50-plus vote at roughly double the rate of the total population in the city.
With a mission to empower people to choose how they live as they age, AARP Pennsylvania fights for all persons age 50 and over, their families and our members. In the Philadelphia mayor’s race, we’re fighting to ensure all candidates understand that people want to live independently in their homes.
That’s why we’ve spent the 2023 campaign season collaborating with community organizations around the city, holding forums for voters to ask the candidates questions about their plans to make the city livable for everyone. We worked with Alan Newman Research to conduct this poll to take the focus off the horserace and turn everyone’s attention to the issues that matter most to older Philadelphians.
The next mayor’s first priority must be to help Philadelphians stay in their homes — more than half of residents 50 and older say they’ve considered leaving their neighborhood over the past year for multiple reasons. Personal safety and security concerns topped the list (84 percent). The cost of living (63 percent) and living independently (61 percent) weren’t far behind. Many Philadelphians over 50 (40 percent) say they are struggling to keep up or falling behind financially, and a troubling 38 percent of older Philadelphians don’t believe they will ever be able to retire.
A troubling 38 percent of older Philadelphians don’t believe they will ever be able to retire.
The next mayor must dive into these issues head-first. Many relief programs exist in Philadelphia — like the Homestead Exemption and the Longtime Owner Occupants Program (LOOP) — designed to keep older Philadelphians in their homes. Unfortunately, very few Philadelphians are aware of these programs, and those who do know about them face challenges with the required paperwork.
AARP Pennsylvania is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that does not endorse candidates or make political campaign contributions. But, we are dedicated to ensuring that community leaders work to provide safe, walkable streets, age-friendly housing and transportation options, access to needed services, and opportunities for residents of all ages to participate in community life.
More than 90 percent of those polled said “access to transportation to get around the city safely and easily” is important to them in this election. And 92.6 percent of older Philadelphians believe “pedestrian safety and reducing the number of fatalities” is important to them. The next mayoral administration must re-prioritize the city’s Vision Zero efforts.
Older Philadelphians are down but not out. While they have considered leaving the city, they haven’t given up on it yet. Eighty-one percent say they are motivated to vote in this year’s primary and general elections. And 84 percent of African American Philadelphians are motivated to vote in May.
Older Philadelphians are watching. They are listening. They need relief — and they’re ready to vote.
Bill Johnston-Walsh is the state director for AARP Pennsylvania.
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