Every May, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) runs Older Americans Month (OAM), which celebrates and remembers the older adults in our communities.
Once known as Senior Citizens Month, each year’s theme is different - this year, it is “Age My Way.” The idea is to look at and identify ways that older members of society can help stay in control of their lives - by accessing social activities and looking after their own health care or well-being while remaining engaged and connected to others. The aim is to tackle the social isolation that so many senior centers assert is rife in our communities.
Older Americans Month is an opportunity to encourage the nation’s observance of the contributions of older adults. It is more than just the ‘history of Older Americans month’; it is a celebration of all we can learn from our elders and their experiences. In that way, OAM aims to support building communities of strength and diversity - where young and old alike can enrich one another’s lives.
While OAM is an opportunity to focus on the positive contributions of older people in our community, it also seeks to ensure that the Older Americans Act is adhered to by society. Additionally, OAM can help tackle critical issues that are far more common than we might believe, including:
Additionally, Older Americans Month helps look at how our elders can remain independent. That’s so crucial for so many of us. Being independent helps us keep a level of self-respect and confidence. To encourage this, especially with this year’s Age My Way theme, there is a heavy emphasis for elders to look at their access to medicare and the healthcare providers that will help them lead their lives on their own terms.
Finally, when looking at ensuring we have strong communities around us which assist our elders as and when they need, OAM also tries to highlight the plight of our caregivers. Without caregivers, whether they be caring for those with Alzheimer's or helping less mobile individuals throughout the pandemic, many seniors would not be able to lead their lives as they would want. OAM also helps raise awareness to ensure that caregivers have the support they need in delivering their services.
If you are looking to join in with the National Council of Senior Citizens and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are lots of activity ideas to help you get into the act of OAM. You could get involved with initiatives at one of the country's many senior centers, look at ways to support those with disabilities, or give the month a shout-out on social media. The hashtag #olderamericansmonth is popular, but it could still do with being used even more!
On top of that, you can help in more practical ways too. You can reach out to older adults in your communities. You can offer friendship and company and offer to assist them if they need help making modifications in their own home. Those modifications can help them live at home independently for longer, so your support can make all the difference.
It’s vital we have a regular celebration of older Americans in our community. Without it, we may forget to check in on elders, which can mean they become increasingly isolated from their community as their health or mobility begins to dwindle. To find out more about specific materials in your community on OAM, you can go to acl.gov - the Administration of Community Living website.