A little bit of help enables Juniper Village residents to vote

Mel Confer, who is 100 years old, signs in to vote at Juniper Village on Tuesday.
Mel Confer, who is 100 years old, signs in to vote at Juniper Village on Tuesday. adrey@centredaily.com

Everyone was trying to figure out exactly how many elections Max Confer has voted in over the course of his very long life.

Car games, as it turns out, can also be played on a very small bus, driving the very short distance from the assisted and independent living facilities at Juniper Village to the community’s skilled nursing building.

By the time the bus arrived at its destination, the general consensus among the seven or so residents assembled was that at the ripe old age of 100, Confer had most likely voted in … a lot of elections.

“You know, there’s a lot of places in this world where people can’t vote,” Confer said.

It is due in large part to the efforts of a dedicated staff that Juniper Village is not one of those places.

Jill McKenrick, Juniper’s connections director, began getting the word out about voting arrangements as early as August, recently dropping off nearly 50 absentee ballots at a local voting center on behalf of residents.

As far as she is concerned, this is less about patriotic duty than it is quality customer service — McKenrick is simply giving the people what they want.

“I feel that they care about the future as much as any 96-year-old could,” McKenrick said.

It was through sheer luck that the retirement community’s skilled nursing building was designated as one of the many voting centers operating throughout the county, making it easier for McKenrick and her staff to spend an hour busing approximately 25 residents to the polls.

By the time Wednesday rolls around, 93-year-old Frank Aplan will have survived World War II, a total of four bouts with cancer and — with any luck — the 2016 presidential election.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, Aplan still would not commit to joining the other residents in Juniper’s home theater that evening, where the voices of broadcasters and political pundits would echo in surround sound. It was unclear if the end result of months of campaigning would be more compelling than a warm bed.

“After a while, you get sick of it,” Aplan said.

Still on the mend from a broken ankle, Aplan spent most of the afternoon in a wheelchair, but arrived at the bus stop more than 30 minutes early to make sure that he was able to perform what the veteran considers to be a civic duty.

Having spent the weekend reviewing the biographies of all the major candidates running for each office, Aplan felt suitably prepared to cast the full weight of his vote out into the world.

“If you belong to something, you kind of give up your right to complain if you don’t contribute,” Aplan said.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready