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C. Hayman, 95; activist pushed for better quality of life for senior citizens

March 10, 2007|Jocelyn Y. Stewart | Times Staff Writer

After retiring in the 1970s, Clarice Hayman began preparing for old age -- not just her own but that of aging residents throughout the state.

A resident of the Crenshaw area of Los Angeles, Hayman took night courses in gerontology and psychology and transformed herself into an advocate for older people.

As a volunteer in the offices of elected officials, she pushed for better nutrition, transportation and recreational services for seniors. Eventually Hayman won a seat in the California Senior Legislature, which advises the state Legislature and promotes measures to enhance the quality of life for older Californians.

Her motivation was a broad concern for others -- and for herself.

"She was helping others, but she knew she was helping herself," said Les Wills, Hayman's step-grandson. "It was a wonderful thing as far as she was concerned.... Well into her 80s she was fit and active."

Hayman died Feb. 28 of natural causes at Centinela Hospital in Inglewood. She was 95.

Born Jan. 19, 1912, in Glasgow, Mo., Hayman was the 12th child of 16. In 1941, she moved to Los Angeles, where she found work with the Los Angeles Unified School District as a key punch operator, a post she held for 30 years.

During the first administration of former Mayor Tom Bradley in the early 1970s, Hayman began volunteering.

She served as the chairwoman of a citywide Advisory Council on the Aging. Citywide multipurpose senior centers, which today offer recreation, nutritious meals and support services, found an early supporter in Hayman. She often maintained that the idea for the centers was hers and that it was later embraced by the City Council and the mayor, Wills said.

By 1983 she was a local chairwoman of the National Caucus and Center on Black Aged, a Washington-based nonprofit agency.

Her interest was not only in seeing that seniors had services but also in changing society's perception of old age.

At a conference on aging where participants lamented the prevailing view of wrinkles as "ugly" and the dearth of older women on television and in advertisements, Hayman offered a strategy.

"We have to learn to use the media," she told the group, according to a 1981 Times article. "We have to make elderly people more visible."

As a volunteer in the office of then-state Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles), Hayman, a petite woman with a firm demeanor, was a voice for seniors on issues such as the location of a Metro Rail line.

"Senior citizens, particularly minority senior citizens, are so dependent on public transportation," Hayman told a Times reporter in 1984. "This line ... could make the difference between participating in activities and being able to get a low-cost meal and staying home."

In the mid- to late '80s Hayman served in the 120-member California Senior Legislature and tackled issues such as healthcare.

"Clarice enjoyed life and lived it to the fullest," said Watson, now a congresswoman. "What she enjoyed most were her many years serving as a senior state senator. One of her greatest accomplishments was drafting a legislative concept to provide affordable housing for senior citizens."

For the last several years of her life Hayman was blind, having lost her vision to glaucoma.

She outlived each of her 15 siblings and her husband and is survived by her step-grandson and several relatives.

Though disabled, she always maintained her spirit and her concern for others, said Vivian Corley, a retired Crenshaw High School teacher who was her caretaker for several years.

"She was just a strong-willed lady," Corley said. "She just didn't give up. Even at her age, she had that fight."

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