The Oklahoma Silver Haired Legislature (OSHL) has helped to pass many laws which benefit older Oklahomans and their families. A partial list of the OSHL accomplishments include:
- Living wills (advance directives);
- Public transportation revolving funds;
- Omnibus Reconciliation Bill;
- Long Term Care Ombudsman Bill;
- Required training for nursing home aides;
- Spousal Impoverishment Act;
- Do-Not-Resuscitate Consent Form and Consumer Protection;
- Alzheimer's Disclosure Bill;
- Hiring of only Certified Nurse's Aides by Nursing Facilities since 2003;
- Nursing home reform;
- Nursing home staffing ratios;
- Guardianship; and
The (OSHL) elections are held on the last working Friday of July at the nutrition sites or other designated polling sites within Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) districts, the 11 planning and service areas for seniors. Candidates must be 60 years and older registered to vote in their precinct.
To be a Senior Haired Legislator, a person must be:
- 60 years and older
- Registered to vote in the Oklahoma precinct they wish to represent. Legislators are elected for two years.
The legislature has 22 senators, 44 representatives and 66 alternates.
The OSHL is funded through the Oklahoma Silver Haired Legislature Alumni Association (OSHLAA). The alumni raises money for the Legislature through fundraising events and individual contributions and from annual membership dues and registration fees. The OSHL receives technical and office support from Aging Services Division. Recent state legislation was passed allowing individual state taxpayers to check off on their tax returns an amount they want to contribute to the OSHL and/or the OSHLAA from their tax return amount, at no expense to the state.
The OSHL was developed in 1981. Rye Oliver, a planner with the Tulsa AAA was one of the forces behind OSHL. Oliver attended a workshop during the 1981 Western Gerontological Society entitled "Silver Haired Legislatures." With the help of the Tulsa AAA and the Special Unit on Aging in the Aging Services Division (ASD), Oliver studied the model programs in Missouri and Florida and established the OSHL. A Senior Legislator was meant to be someone who would be closer to the problems of seniors since he/she was a member of that population.
Responsibilities of the Oklahoma Silver Haired Legislator:
- Learn the needs of the seniors in his/her district;
- Stay informed about senior issues;
- Represent the needs of seniors in his/her district at the state capitol;
- Visit the nutrition sites and senior centers as often as possible;
- Develop a poster to get input such as: "There should be a law that...";
- Visit nursing homes in his/her area;
- Offer to speak at civic club meetings, senior centers and nutrition sites; and
- Attend all OSHL training sessions.