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Happy Older Americans Month!

Every May, the Administration for Community Living leads the nation’s observance of Older Americans Month. This is a time to recognize past and present older Americans and their contributions to society, especially those who have defended our country. It’s also a time for highlighting aging trends, and reaffirming commitments to serving the older adults in our communities.

When I started my research for this month’s blog, my husband asked me what I was working on. When I told him about Older Americans Month, he looked at me and said “Aren’t you one of them?” Ha ha, honey, good one!

But that’s just it, we are all becoming Older Americans! Thinking about it now is what will allow us all to age in place and remain healthy in our retirement years! So this month we are recognizing a lifetime of hard work, devotion to family, and commitment to the community that has laid the foundation for the country we are today.

Did you know that in 1963, there were only 17 million living Americans that had reached their 65th birthday? Today, we hear about people celebrating their 100th birthday, and that is becoming more and more common. Also in 1963, a third of older adults lived in poverty, and close to half were without any health insurance. Changes were needed! In April 1963, a meeting was held between President John F Kennedy and members of the National Council of Senior Citizens, leading to the designation of May as Senior Citizens Month – now Older Americans Month.

The goals behind this designation are what led to the passing of Medicare to deliver affordable, quality health care to our seniors. It also strengthened Social Security, which is the bedrock of American retirement. The ultimate goal was to raise our older adults out of poverty and extend lifespans of those who had worked hard their whole lives. Certainly, there is still more work to do to see these benefits continue! We are all reading the articles expressing concerns over the continuation of Social Security as well as Medicare. But no older adult should lie in bed at night wondering how they are going to pay for life-saving prescriptions or to put food on their table.

Each year, every President has issued a formal proclamation in late April or early May, requesting all citizens pay tribute to the Older Americans in their community. This year, President Biden delivered the proclamation on Saturday, May 4th. This year’s theme is “Powered by Connection,” recognizing the impact that social connections and relationships have on our health and happiness. As we all learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, loneliness and isolation definitely impact our mental health! Interactions support independence and allow aging in place.

This month, support the older adults in your life and help them to get connected! Here are some ideas:

1)     Invite them to community events, social clubs, and volunteer opportunities.

2)     Encourage businesses and organizations to offer mentorships and peer-to-peer support led by older adults and the younger members.

3)     Help set up transportation services for them so that they can overcome obstacles to ensuring social interactions.

4)     Take a look at the older loved ones in your family and see what changes could really make a difference in their overall well-being.

Interestingly, more than half of Americans aged 65 and above are online! That means they are connecting in our world of social media and staying current. Have you helped an aging loved one in your family do so? If not, help them set up a smart phone or tablet, or purchase them a voice-activated home assistant like Alexa!

Only 3.6% of older Americans are in nursing homes. That’s wonderful news! We are definitely seeing a shift in how people age in place, and that’s the beauty of options like in-home personal care (by Care Advantage, of course!) and today’s fancy senior living communities. These options allow people to remain vibrant and active, and truly live their best life in those golden years!

I will end this on another positive note: older adults regularly get a good night’s sleep and 9 out of 10 manage their stress better than they did in their younger years. There is hope for us all!

Happy Older Americans Month, everyone!

Posted On
May 23, 2024
Beckie Spaid, DSA-NC