It was 60 years ago this month that we celebrated the first Older Americans Month (OAM). According to the Census Bureau, it all started just a month before in April 1963 at a meeting of the National Council of Senior Citizens members and President John F. Kennedy that steered toward designating May as ‘Senior Citizens Month,’ the prelude to ‘Older Americans Month. This is a time when we encourage and celebrate the older adults of our country by exploring their unique needs and breaking down the barriers to stereotyping around our most seasoned community members, friends, and family members. Today, it’s still time to talk about the needs and opportunities available for our older Americans and how keeping our seniors safe, happy, healthy, and connected is valuable for us all.
First things first, you may wonder what defines someone as old! Great thought! The World Health Organization considers older adults 60 years and up. The American Psychological Association considers older Americans to be 60-65 years old and older, and the United States Social Security Administration considers you officially a senior citizen at 65 years old. While we all know that age doesn’t always define us, the Older American Month Association shares these topics for those considering our most golden years.
- Embrace the opportunity to change. We shouldn’t let our increased number of birthdays limit our ideas, dreams, passion, or adventures! Everyone should welcome the creativity they possess or desire and find purpose in their lives by trying new activities and looking for more joy in all that they do.
- Explore the rewards of growing older. They say with age comes beauty; we mean knowledge! Our older Americans certainly have a lot to offer when it comes to insight, understanding, and experience in the world around us. We should all continue to grow that knowledge through reading, listening, hands-on activities, classes, learning a new trade or skill, and creative activities.
- Stay engaged in your community. Volunteer. There’s a reason you see so many people wanting to give back, it just feels great. Here at NCH, yes, our volunteers tend to be older. Perhaps because our older adults understand how important it is to stay current, busy, and participate in the things around us. Seniors have so much to offer when it comes to volunteering and ages should never keep them from perhaps even trying something completely new! If you are interested in volunteering at NCH, try giving our Volunteer Office a call at 802-334-3286.
- Form relationships. We need community and connections no matter what age we are. If you aren’t an older person, and you don’t have an older person in your life, friend one, and vice versa! Having friends of all ages brings a great perspective and support. Loneliness used to be something we worried about for our older friends, not we are also worried about our youth too, team up! Become friends and spend time investing in your relationships!
Here in the NEK, we are an aging community. Sometimes we become “seniors” before we realize it and we find ourselves without the services we may need. The Northeast Kingdom Council on Aging is a wonderful resource in our area! They offer classes, workshops, advice, support, and connections to services. Give them a call at 1-800-642-5119 or (802) 748-5182. Age Well Vermont also has many resources and support for our older Vermonters. Their toll-free, confidential Helpline can be reached by calling 1-800-642-5119. Both numbers can help connect you to services such as meals, transportation, and more. Aging can be hard; we’ve never done it before! Don’t feel like you need to know it all, call the hotlines for that extra support.
OAM is also a perfect time to learn more about and start conversations about elder abuse, advanced directives, fall prevention, bone density, and more. If you aren’t an older person, keep waiting your turn. If we are all lucky, we will get there! One thing we can do is learn more now to ensure our older years are also as safe, healthy, and independent as possible. What you are doing now is an investment in what that will look like. May we all use this OAM as a reminder to get our ducks in a row, commit to an activity, embrace more change, look to grow, let go of the small stuff, and find ways to connect and build community? OAM matters because if you aren’t one, hopefully, one day you will be one!
Director of The Wellness Center