May is Older Americans Month, a scheme run by the Administration for Community Living (ACL) and supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Once known as Senior Citizens Month, the scheme encourages many activity ideas to help communities get into the festivities that have been running every May since 1963. When the department first established the month, "only" 17 million over 65s lived in the United States. Almost 60 years later, that number has skyrocketed to over 54 million, making the month more necessary than ever.
Older Americans Month (OAM) celebrates the older individuals in our society. It is also a way of ensuring the wider community is aware of the Older Americans Act, which helps fund services that support senior citizens to stay fit, healthy, and live a happy life.
Importantly, Older Americans Month is a way to raise awareness of the plight that our aging population can sadly often experience. Older Americans may find they are increasingly isolated from the very communities they helped build while grappling with deteriorating physical health. To combat the impact that aging can have on an older person’s physical and mental well-being, Older Americans Month helps engender communities of strength that older generations can rely on for help.
Age My Way is this year’s Older Americans theme. The theme aims to ensure that we engage at every age with our wider community and that, as we age, we have suitable access to long-term care - be that caregivers in our own homes or going to healthcare providers for the attention we need. Crucially, the theme highlights how the older population wants to have a say in what happens to them, so they can live their lives their way and age their own way.
Scheme organizers are therefore suggesting older and younger community members alike take part in the following activities:
OAM aims to ensure the difficulties that many older adults experience are minimal. Additionally, the scheme wants to champion all the expertise and talent that older people have so that we can continue to learn from them. Older people will have made so many contributions to our wider society. Yet, without continued engagement with them, we may not know all they have helped us achieve.
Ultimately, Older Americans Month wants to enable our older generations to have the chance to grow old gracefully - how and where they decide. The scheme seeks to empower older people so they can live at home independently for as long as they can and only leave when they choose. But, importantly, if they do decide to leave their own home, the scheme wants to ensure that they go on their own terms and move to where they have chosen.
The Older Americans Month celebrations are a great way to build awareness of a problem that could become rife in our communities - the increased isolation of our older adults who subsequently have to grapple with worsening mental health and physical deterioration. This is a problem that most of us could have to endure in our futures, so changing how society interacts with the older generation now can make a lasting impact on your own retirement and old age.
There are many ways you can get involved, but to help raise awareness even further, you can spread the word on social media through the hashtag #olderamericansmonth.