Older Americans Honored This Month

Robin Bush, ISR Communications

May is Older Americans Month, established in 1963 under President John F. Kennedy (initially named Senior Citizens Month), as a way for our entire nation to pay tribute to older persons in our communities. 

Older Americans play vital positive roles in our communities — as family members, friends, volunteers, civic leaders, workforce members, mentors, and more, offering strength, wisdom, and experience from a wide range of backgrounds.

The Administration for Community Living, which leads the nation’s observance of Older Americans Month, is asking each of us to find ways to support the theme Age My Way.  This theme is designed to explore the many ways older adults can continue to live independently and contribute to their communities for as long as possible.  When we all commit to creating communities that provide and support the services that help older adults to thrive, we weave a tapestry of young and old side-by-side, honoring and respecting, sharing and listening, learning and teaching that contributes to health and well-being for everyone.   

If you are a younger community member, ask yourself, “How can I create opportunities for older adults to share their wealth of knowledge?  What can I give, what can I learn, and what can we share?”

If you are an older adult, ask yourself, “What can I do now and in years ahead to age in place my way and maintain my sense of purpose and value?”  Here are a few things to consider:

  • Plan: Think about what you will need and want in the future, what community-based services you may need, and what community activities interest you.
  • Engage: Remain involved and contribute to your community in ways that have meaning to you.
  • Access: Make improvements to your home and be informed about assistive technologies that will help you to age in place.
  • Connect: Maintain your social activities and relationships.  Remain as active and connected as you can regardless of the limitations age may bring upon you.

As you consider how you want the years ahead to be, to remain connected, and contribute your gifts for the benefit of others, consider the question Michael Clinton poses in his book ROAR Into the Second Half of Your Life.  (Before It’s Too Late).  He asks, “What’s your favorite future?”

Try this: he suggests picking a word of something you value, then listing all the various manifestations for it that you can.  For example, imagine if you chose the word “helping.” How can you make changes to incorporate it in all you do?  Your answers become the map to begin living a meaningful, engaged life at any age.  Imagine what your photo would look like if you were living that life.  Are you willing to accept limitations, or will you be determined to turn every obstacle into an opportunity to add value to your life and the lives of others?  What can you do today to take that next step?  And who do you want to surround yourself with who will support you living your best life, your way?

As we age, things are fine until they aren’t.  Perhaps that’s inevitable, but we don’t have to sit and wait for it.  Instead, age your way, and everyone around you will benefit from all you share.  That’s how we build strong communities that value older adults.

What can you do today to celebrate Older Americans Month, and who can you get to do it with you?