By Lance Robertson, ACL Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging
May is Older Americans Month, a time when we recognize the contributions of older Americans and think about how we as Americans work together to support and value people over age 65. Our theme this year for Older Americans Month is “Engage at Every Age.”
According to our just-released 2017 Profile of Older Americans, one in seven Americans are 65 or older, and just two years from now, this fast-growing segment of the population will number more than 56 million people. In this increasingly diverse and vital group are treasured family members, expert craftspeople, skilled professionals, seasoned adventurers, and wise advisors. They are our connections to history, and our guides for the future.
Research suggests that seniors who are socially engaged also are healthier, mentally and physically. That’s why ACL is committed to supporting older adults with the tools and services they need to continue to engage in their communities throughout their lives. Through the national Aging Network, which includes thousands of agencies and organizations in every state, and with the help of advocates and partners from both the public and private sectors, ACL is working to connect older Americans and their families to the systems of services and supports available to help them remain healthy, live independently, prevent abuse and neglect, and support caregivers. We’re also working together to expand employment opportunities for older adults who wish to work.
Of course, the experience of aging—whether you’re doing it yourself or accompanying a loved one or neighbor on that journey—is very personal. Everyone goes through the process a little differently, with different joys, reflections, challenges, and accomplishments.
And the ways we choose to engage are very personal, too. People engage to help others, by volunteering at their church, mentoring younger people, or helping to raise grandchildren, for example. They engage to stay healthy – maybe they learn to dance or to better manage chronic diseases. They engage to age in place – taking action to modify their homes with things like safety bars in the shower.
Everyone has their own story. And telling those stories is an outstanding way to engage with other people. It’s how we pass wisdom to others, get to know each other, learn about the past and advocate for a brighter future. Everyone – young and old alike – enjoys hearing a good story. And there are lots of important stories to tell about older Americans.
I encourage Americans young and old – and, best of all, young with old! – to take a moment this month to share your stories. By sharing the stories of aging and older Americans, we celebrate our triumphs, share our wisdom, advocate for each other, and build stronger communities for all of us.
One easy way you can share your story is through the Older Americans Month Selfie Challenge. Show us how you “Engage at Every Age” by posting a selfie (or groupie) of you participating in activities that improve your well-being using the hashtag #OAM18. Looking for other ideas? The Older Americans Month website can help!
However best works for you, at whatever age you are, I hope you will find at least one new way to engage during Older Americans Month this year, and that you will continue to engage – at every age – throughout life!