The elderly man lived alone in Stanley Row, a federally subsidized apartment building in downtown Cincinnati. Polly Doran and two Ohio legislators took the elevator up to his apartment.
The man welcomed them in, and as he got up from his chair to greet them, the purpose of their visit became instantly clear. Tiny insects scattered across his shirt, burrowed into his hair and dallied on the cushion where he was resting. He brushed them off his arm, pockmarked with festering red welts. He showed his guests into the bedroom, where they lifted the mattress and watched as the critters crawled around on the box springs. Close inspection found their rows of eggs knitted into the corners. Bed bugs.
The apartment—and the 80-year-old man—were infested. And Doran, a 1975 Edgecliff graduate with a degree in sociology, was visiting her elderly client with two people who had the power to do something about it. As the advocacy coordinator for the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio, Doran’s job is to speak on their behalf and—in this case—bring about legislation declaring bed bugs to be vermin, subjecting them to inspection and enforcement by state and local health officials.
Such efforts by Doran on behalf of older people in the state have earned her accolades, including the Advocate of the Year award in 2007 by the Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging. But Doran, who is also the Council’s social service administrator, works on many other levels as well.
Now, she’s lobbying the state to restore funding for the Passport program, which makes it possible for retirees to remain in their homes instead of moving into nursing homes. Ohio trimmed Passport funding, and the cuts are forcing more residents into nursing homes at four times the cost of Passport.
“We work so hard with our legislators to make them aware these are cost-effective programs that save the state money,” Doran says. “As a society, we care for our seniors. They are important. They’ve served their country, and I always remember who we serve.”