The North Dakota Silver-Haired Education Association is holding its assembly at the Capitol through Friday.

The association gives people age 60 and over a chance to educate themselves about how issues pass through the legislative process and a way to discuss concerns about issues that affect seniors.

Those attending the assembly are elected from January through April by their county senior organizations and senior centers. Their county often provides the financial support for the delegate to attend the assembly in Bismarck.

The assembly is a mock legislative session. Participants draft bills and debate the committee issues such as health care, medication, Social Security and housing.

Robert Johnson, 81, a returning representative for Burleigh County, is concerned about North Dakota’s guardianship bill.

“The one in place now runs out at the end of the summer,” he said. “I’d like to see something be put into place that’s permanent.”

The guardianship bill was created to ensure seniors who can no longer take care of themselves are getting the best care possible.

Johnson said he also wants to see smoking banned in all workplaces and believes there should be a first-cause seat belt law.

Gerald Schaan, a 70-year-old representative from Williams County, disagreed with Johnson’s concerns. He hopes to discuss expensive housing for the elderly in the Williston area.

“I have lived there my entire life, and it infuriates me to think the state is abandoning the people,” he said. “A 90-year-old woman I knew just had to move to Beach because she couldn’t afford her apartment anymore in Williston.”

He also hopes his concerns can reach the Legislature.

Cathy Langemo, an active volunteer with the assembly for years, said that more often than not issues arising this week will be carried to the state Legislature to create bills.

Kristine Kostuck is an intern at the Bismarck Tribune. She can be reached at 250-8256 or at