Usually, during campaigning and elections, it is normal to find middle aged or young people at the helm of the process. Many, of course, do it to position themselves for political appointments and other benefits. But US president Barack Obama has a rather odd group that fought his battle during the recent elections. These are grandmothers at a retirement home in one of the states. Caroline Somanje met the grandmothers in Massachusetts to learn more about their activities.
While American president Barack Obama has a lot of people to thank for his re-election for four more years in office, he cannot afford to overlook this group of â€˜golden oldiesâ€™ that worked hard to assist him.
They are called Grandmothers for Obama, a volunteer, grassroots network for the Democrat Party who were campaigning for the president and Governor of Massachusetts whose Democratic candidate was Elizabeth Warren.
This happened at a retirement centre in Brookhaven at Lexington in Massachusetts where 77 grandmothers wrote postcards with a personal note and mailed them to senior voters in the swing state of New Hampshire.
The group, launched during the 2008 campaign, is linked to Obamaâ€™s campaign and believes that his policies and vision best serve their interests and also benefit their children, grandchildren and generations to come.
The centre has 350 residents whose average age is 80 years. There are four residents who are currently 100 years old.
Out of the entire group, 24 are Republicans while others are independents.
Their Facebook page reads: â€œThere is every indication that this is going to be a very close election. President Obama needs us to help him capture more of the senior vote this year than he did in 2008.â€
According to director of the group Betsy Hatfield, the postcards were mailed to undecided older voters around states.
Said Hatfield: â€œWe believe older voters pay attention to a card than the negative television adverts. They relate to a handwritten card easily.â€
Anne Boardman, 88, has lived at the retirement centre for two years now. She was living in Washington DC before and is one of the grandmothers who support the cause of president Obama among older voters.
Three days before the elections, a group of international journalists from all over the world visited Brookhaven retirement home and found Boardman and other members of the group writing postcards.
Said Boardman in an interview: â€œI like Obamaâ€™s record. He did very well as president for four years. I particularly liked his foreign policy where he had a balanced approach as he had a difficult situation on his hands. I trust him and Iâ€™m hoping he will win the election.â€
A mother of a 56-year-old daughter and grandmother to three girls, Boardman was widowed in 1961 and has been living on her own for a long time after her only daughter got married and moved away.
Like many former professionals found at the centre, Boardman, whose recollection of her life is as sharp as a teenager, used to work at the State Department in the office of public affairs. She later moved to Lebanon with her husband who worked at the University of Beirut.
Boardman later moved to the US Embassy in Lebanon where her husband secured a job as head of the political section. She said she travelled a lot with her family.
Boardman has since sold her house and moved to the centre where she claimed to be happy. Having been accustomed to living on her own, she said the centre had accorded her the opportunity to interact with other people within her age group while maintaining their independence.
She said there are a lot of classes at the centre and activities that include writing the postcards and making phone calls to people of their age group.
A typical Malawian grandmother, on the other hand, is one who on a regular day sits on the veranda of her grass-thatched house as she prepares vegetables for dinner.
She is lucky to have her spouse at 75 or any company to live with her. Otherwise, she is condemned to loneliness because of witchcraft accusations.
It has become common for most societies to accuse old people of witchcraft as they are blamed for any mishap. It has become a crime to lose teeth from old age or develop grey hair as this is mistaken for cannibalism.
Usually, the old people are resigned to the fate of getting assistance from their children and once condemned, they may live in utter misery. People with such stereotypes never stop to think why the younger generation is dying earlier.
Various factors, including HIV and Aids, contribute to their early departure and not necessarily because of witchcraft.
This is just one example of how the elderly are coping these days, many subjected to loneliness and rejection.
A Grandmothers for Obama member, Muriel Finegold, admitted to such stereotypes towards their organisation during its infancy.
â€œWe decided to create a website as it would be an asset in growing our membership and organising our effort. Shortly after the website, a friend suggested we have a facebook page.
â€œAs we started to create the page and as soon as the word grandmother was entered, a pop up advert appeared and it was advertising false teeth. I thought this is not how I want our organisation to be defined,â€ said Finegold.