Gear Up to get engAGED During Older Americans Month

 
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Every May, we celebrate and honor the older adults who enrich our communities and lives. But did you know that Older Americans Month has been observed since 1963 when the number of adults age 65 and older was estimated to be 17 million? Today that number tops 48 million. Quite a change!

Now, not only has the number of older adults increased, but older adults are now working and living longer, have more education, are more diverse—and are more likely to want to age in their homes and communities. Today’s older adults benefit from what many call the longevity bonus, an additional 10 to 30 years of life expectancy based on factors such as better nutrition and advancements in health care.

The question on everyone’s minds is how to spend that time! The engAGED website has fact sheets describing just a few of the many ways older adults can engage in their communities. For many, retirement from work will be postponed or restructured as they remain in the workforce beyond the traditional retirement age, transition to a new career or start their own business. Others will rekindle a creative talent, satisfy an interest in learning something new or devote their time and talent to volunteering in their communities.

Staying active and engaged as we age is vital to maintaining both physical health and mental well-being. But despite the advances that contribute to longer lives, many older adults live alone or live in rural areas that have insufficient transportation options and lack access to critical services—circumstances that can lead to social isolation. As the national dialogue on the impact of social isolation grows, we are beginning to analyze how best to identify and address social isolation in older adults.

To that end, engAGED: The National Resource Center to Engage Older Adults, led by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) along with its partners, Lifetime Arts, Generations United, Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes and Older Adults Technology Services, is dedicated to helping the Aging Network develop programs, polices and partnerships to promote the engagement of older adults in every community in the country.

For Older Americans Month, engAGED, which is funded through a grant from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, has released a toolkit to increase the awareness of the physical and emotional benefits of engagement in the community, a tool to assess social isolation and a calendar of opportunities that can be used in communities to promote the social engagement of older adults. Visit our engAGED Community Toolkit page for the complete set or resources.

As we look forward to Older Americans Month, we reflect on the theme announced by the Administration for Community Living for the month which suggests that we:

  • Connect with friends, family, and services that support participation.

  • Create by engaging in activities that promote learning, health, and personal enrichment.

  • Contribute time, talent, and life experience to benefit others.

The nation’s Area Agencies on Aging and the entire Aging Network are deeply rooted in every community in the country and are well positioned to help older adults stay engaged. As experts, the Aging Network connects with more than eight million older adults each year by providing information and assistance, services and supports and promoting opportunities for volunteerism and engagement. This is all because we recognize that older adults who connect, create and contribute benefit themselves and their communities.

by Sandy Markwood, CEO of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging

 
Brenda Luna Macedo