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Elderly Activists March On, Speak Out Ahead Of Election

Women march down the halls at Seacrest Village retirement community in Encini...

Credit: Connie Kelley

Above: Women march down the halls at Seacrest Village retirement community in Encinitas, in solidarity with the national women's marches, January 21, 2017.

They marched as young activists many decades ago. Now, most in their 80s and 90s, these San Diego County women aren’t letting their canes or walkers slow them down. They continue to march on and speak out.

“We better get started,” Dee Rudolph, 87, recently announced into a microphone at Seacrest Village Retirement Community in Encinitas.

Rudolph organized a meeting among her fellow residents to hold a voter registration drive, and to plan for new activism opportunities ahead of the upcoming elections.

“The thing that everybody is so unhappy with is the demeanor of the president,” Rudolph shared with the group.

“We care about women’s rights," chimed in Gloria Katwe. "We care about gun control."

“We need to take care of our homeless people,” said Susan Sobel.

“I think the (Trump) Administration has not made human rights one of their priorities,” said Francis Caminer.

Photo by Susan Murphy

Some residents at Seacrest Village Retirement Community in Encinitas gather to discuss the upcoming election, May 2, 2018.

Activism runs deep among the strong-willed women, some with soft and shaky voices. They’ve marched with signs through their retirement halls in solidarity with national marches. The first was the Women’s March in January 2017.

“There’s a whole feeling of camaraderie that we didn’t have before, and I love it,” Rudolph said.

Most recently their group of 75 laced up their tennis shoes for the youth gun control march. Their signs read “Arm teachers with pencils not guns” and “This grandma has had enough!”

Photo credit: Barbara Applebee

Barbara Applebee, 87, holds up her sign during a march for gun control at Seacrest Village retirement community in Encinitas in solidarity with the national youth march, March 24, 2018.

Rudolph suggested a letter-writing campaign to lawmakers.

“You know, when you have old ladies who write postcards, it’s amazing how they sit up and take notice,” she said.

Their focus is on the upcoming primary election, and carefully choosing candidates who will stand up to President Trump and protect the rights and values they feel are threatened.

Their rallying spirit comes from a lifetime of experiencing historic events and tough times, including the Holocaust, the civil rights movement and times of war.

RELATED: 'We've Come Too Far To Go Back' Say Elderly Activists Protesting Trump Administration

Age and experience develop wisdom, said Bernice Rotondi.

“We’re a hopeful group,” Rotondi explained. “We’ve lived a long time and we’ve seen a lot of times when you feel things are gonna be terrible, they’re never gonna get better. And they got better. But it’s not going to change unless people participate and work toward that end."

Barbara Applebee marched in Washington for union rights in the 60s and Roe V. Wade in the 70s. She spent 30 years in New York teaching English to immigrants.

“We were children. We were young adults and parents and have all this lifetime of experience,” Applebee said. “It keeps us alive to be interested in what’s going on outside of Seacrest.”

Many of the women envisioned their golden years to be consumed by relaxing in rocking chairs. But they say now is not the time for knitting.

“Just because we’re here, and we should be just relaxing, there’s still so much life in us,” Sobel said. “We don’t want to just sit back. We want to help.”

Not everyone at the retirement home shares their political views, but Rotondi said they all share one hope.

“We all want peace,” she said. “We may come from different directions, but we want peace. And we want our children to be educated.”

They offer this advice for younger generations:

“Be involved. Make sure you vote. Make sure you follow what’s going on,” said Rudolph. “Don’t make an island of yourself.”

“Be kind,” added Rotondi. “And if you follow that philosophy, no matter what direction you’re going in ... the world has to be a better place.”

In the interest of being kind to their conservative friends, the women say they continue to follow a simple rule: no politics at the dinner table.

Reported by Matt Bowler

They marched as young activists many decades ago. Now, most in their 80s and 90s, these San Diego County women aren’t letting their canes or walkers slow them down. They continue to march on and speak out.

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