The season of the light is upon us – a time of year that provides us with an opportunity to reflect on what we have as well as focus on how we can make life better for others who may not be as fortunate.
South Carolina has more than 900,000 seniors, and that number is expected to double during the next 15 years, with those 50 and older accounting for nearly half of our state’s population by the year 2030, according to census projections. Each of these senior adults has unique needs, and they are all faced with a different set of challenges, ranging from seniors who need help with transportation and mobility to those who must decide between buying groceries or medication.
Earlier this year, my office received a call from a neighbor of a gentleman who had been without electricity since 2009. The gentleman lived in his own home, but had suffered a stroke and gotten behind on his bills and property taxes. The neighbor was concerned about the gentleman, who had become buried under a cascading weight of unfortunate events in his life. He feared the harshness of winter on the way, but, like most seniors, he had been making do with the hand he had been dealt and was hesitant to ask for assistance.
After the call, staff from my office located a partner who was willing to help this gentleman get back on his feet – SCANA, the parent company of SCE&G. The company answered the call in a big way. Even though they restored power to the house after replacing some of the wiring; the appliances were rusted and hot water and heat could not be restored. But instead of saying there was nothing more they could do, they went to work weatherizing the home, installing new windows and doors, a water heater, insulation, and a new heating and air conditioning system. Additionally, we worked collectively with various groups to pay the gentleman’s back taxes and utilities to get him back on track.
While this story is somewhat of a worst-case scenario, it is not altogether uncommon. The situation illustrates not only how vulnerable our state’s poor and indigent population is, but also how fragile the aging middle class in South Carolina has become. In a nutshell, this is the face of aging for many older South Carolinians – the very people who may be our next door neighbors.
This project demonstrated how a little generosity from others – particularly the electric linemen, gas journeymen, and other employees from SCE&G who volunteered their personal time by providing their labor to help this gentleman – goes a long way. In the future, it is going to take similar collaborative efforts across the state to make sure the needs for an aging South Carolina are met.
I salute SCANA and commend SCE&G and their employees for their role in the project. Together, they rose to the occasion and led the charge by answering a call greater than their own, which is a shining example for us all to follow.
Seniors in our state have paid their dues. They have worked hard all of their lives without expecting handouts, but, through no fault of their own, in a time when they can no longer make it alone and need help because of the veil of age, we must do everything we can to make sure that a helping hand is available.
As you recount life’s blessings this holiday season, take a moment to consider the needs of those around you who may be less fortunate. To someone who needs help, what may be a small gift to you may mean the world to them. Let’s make this a team effort; when everyone does a little, no one has to do a lot. Opportunities to help our fellow man are all around us if we take a break from the complexities of life to look around us. This year, be the glimmer of hope for a senior or vulnerable adult in your community who needs a helping hand.
Glenn F. McConnell is South Carolina’s lieutenant governor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 803-734-2080.