In a few short years, our nation will be home to more seniors than children for the first time in history, 1 which means we will have a lot to celebrate during Older Americans Month (OAM)!
First declared in 1963, OAM is celebrated each May to acknowledge the countless contributions of older Americans and strengthen our commitment to accessible senior care.
Back when President John F. Kennedy first proclaimed Older Americans Month, approximately one-third of seniors lived in poverty, and close to half were without health insurance.2 While just 1% are uninsured to date,3 today’s seniors are facing a different risk — a substantial loss of care access.
A staggering 96% of senior living communities are currently experiencing staff shortages and the majority (61%) are concerned staffing shortages might force them to close.4 A loss of assisted living facilities and senior living communities leaves the older population to potentially experience a stark reduction in quality care access in the not-so-distant future.
It’s never been more vital to ensure the growing population of older Americans can age with the dignity and independence they deserve. This mission is a key component of this year’s OAM theme, Aging Unbound, which encourages communities to combat the stereotypes surrounding senior care.
Here are four ideas to commemorate Older Americans Month by creating longer-lasting support initiatives that support older Americans beyond this honorary month.
1. Embrace the Opportunity to Change
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Older Americans Month reminds us that age is just a number when it comes to staying active, happy, and independent.
This is an area within which senior communities may support proactive developments in physical, mental and emotional wellness.
One way for communities to promote the ability to adopt healthy changes is through fitness courses centered around strength, balance and flexibility. To ignite the desire to try new things, community leaders can harness the competitive spirit and gamify course objectives with prizes and awards.
2. Explore the Rewards of Growing Older
Speaking of awards, a pillar of this year’s 60th anniversary of Older Americans Month is to expand on the knowledge that accompanies old age through reading, listening and creative activities. As such, provide residents with several outlets to continue hands-on and verbal education.
Programs that support introspection and storytelling, such as improv groups and self-reflection seminars, help seniors gain additional perspectives on the insights they’ve gleaned throughout the years.
More creative and hands-on activities, like art classes and field trips to local wildlife centers, help develop an appreciation of the rewards of growing older.
3. Engage with the Larger Community
Field trips to local aquariums, beach cleanups and other activity hubs do more than just spark an appreciation for continuing education. They can also help maintain and strengthen seniors’ engagement throughout their communities and remind them of the value they offer outside their homes.
There are several opportunities for older Americans in senior living centers to engage with the larger community, including:
- Mentorships based on a lifetime of developed skill sets
- Recreational opportunities in social clubs and events
- Volunteerism within local charities or wildlife organizations
4. Encourage Generational Connections
Tools and programs that help seniors stay connected with family members are integral to resident health and happiness. This includes staying in touch with children and grandchildren as well as senior siblings.
Likewise, there is a natural need for senior residents to connect with one another, regardless of age.
To reinforce the appreciation for growing older and forge long-lasting community bonds, encourage connections with residents and people from other generations, such as school-aged kids or college students. For instance, host an event during which those of the younger generation teach residents how to use technology, like social media, to connect with friends and family.
Think Outside the Box this Older Americans Month
The purpose of Older Americans Month is indeed to honor our nation’s senior citizens. But now more than ever, we should do more than simply celebrate the older generation.
We should take strides to create wellness opportunities and support initiatives that break the stereotypes associated with growing older – assumptions that may be holding seniors back from realizing their fullest potential later in life.
In May and beyond, find unique ways to help your residents truly thrive!
1 4 Argentum, “The Value of Assisted Living for America,” March 2023.
2 The White House, “A Proclamation on Older Americans Month, 2023,” April 28, 2023.
3 National Health Statistics Reports, “Demographic Variation in Health Insurance Coverage: United States,” June 29, 2021.