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Norton Welcomes Seniors to U.S. Capitol Visitor Center

Mary Wells | 5/27/2009, 10:34 p.m.

Seniors Learn about New Laws, Programs and Perks

Hundreds of senior citizens received a warm welcome from Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) as they arrived at the new Capitol Visitor Center on Thurs., May 21 for a tour of the 580,000 square-foot facility on the east side of the Capitol.

About 250 seniors participated in a day devoted to the young at heart during a special May Day program, €A New Day for Seniors with a New Administration and a New Congress.€

Norton, 71, who appeared on stage in one of the center€s many underground auditoriums, apologized to the crowd for the long walk from the steps of the Capitol to the Visitor Center. Then, in her indomitable style, Norton got down to the nuts and bolts of policies and programs that will impact senior citizens in the near future. She also told the group about some perks that they are entitled to receive during the 60-minute presentation.

€Seniors are among our best informed and most engaged citizens," Norton said during her opening remarks.

Now, in her 10th term as the lone congresswoman for the District of Columbia, Norton provided the audience with a little background information on the U.S. Capitol -- the new addition and largest project in the Capitol€s 215-year history.

€Our Capitol was built by freed slaves as a war measure, and by slaves who knew how to do things well. They built the Capitol, which is so revered. A year or two ago, it was decided to build a Visitor Center and add an Emancipation Hall to commemorate the work of the slaves and free Blacks who built the U.S. Capitol and to place Sojourner Truth's bust [in Emancipation Hall]," she said.

In between Norton€s historical tidbits, information about new laws and the Federal Communications Commission imminent changes regarding television signals, visitors enjoyed music performed by a Blues band.

Joyce Torrence attended the event for seniors. Torrence, 71, who lives in Upper Marlboro, Md., kicked up her heels as Lady Mary and the Jim Bennett Band played oldies that included popular hits such as €Proud Mary€ a well-known recording made famous by R&B singers Ike and Tina Turner in the 1970s. Mary Bennett, the band€s lead vocalist, invited Torrence and two women to join her on stage as backup singers, reminiscent of the original Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Torrence, along with two others, imitated the Ikettes.

When the song ended and the dance routine was over, Torrence looked surprised.

€I didn€t know that we were going to have this much fun,€ she said laughing.

Torrence said she was impressed with the facility, especially the bust of abolitionist and women€s rights activist, Truth.

After the lighthearted moments ended, Norton discussed topics that included the new Credit Card Bill [The CARD Act] signed into law by President Barack Obama on Fri., May 22. She said the new law would prevent credit card companies from bilking consumers out of their hard earned dollars. She also talked about the upcoming conversion from the decades-old analog television signal to digital €" topical subjects that will impact seniors and other Americans in the months and years to come.

€The President just signed the Credit Card Bill. The companies had simply taken advantage of us. We were all in this together. [Now], they can't add new interest rates and penalties unless you are 30 days late. Seniors usually pay their bills on time, but the credit card companies were taking advantage of people who paid on time,€ Norton said.

She emphasized to the audience that televisions will not operate properly without converter boxes as of June 12. She told the group that discount coupons are available and provided specific locations where seniors could find the coupons. Should seniors experience problems obtaining the coupons €" she€s there to help.

€You can get coupons worth $40 if you need converter boxes for your televisions. There are three locations where you can ask for assistance, but if you have any problems at all, just call my office,€ Norton said.

Before concluding, Norton alerted seniors that the District€s Office on Aging has created a new program, €Aging in Place.€ She said that 80 percent of seniors prefer to stay in their homes -- so funds are now available to help them stay put €" if possible.

€It saves us money and keeps you in your neighborhoods and communities," she said.