Time to honor older Americans

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By Kay Kaylor | PREVIEW Columnist

I advocate for residents in skilled nursing and assisted living residences as the Region 9 long-term care ombudsman employed at the San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging (SJBAAA). Some of the many aging and care concerns will be addressed here.

The theme for this year’s Older Americans Month is “Age My Way.” Every May, the federal Administration for Community Living (ACL), which just celebrated its 10th anniversary, leads the nation’s observance of this occasion. This year, the ACL will focus on aging in place so that older adults can plan to stay in their homes and live independently in their communities for as long as possible.

 As stated on its website, “The Administration for Community Living was created around the fundamental principle that older adults and people of all ages with disabilities should be able to live where they choose, with the people they choose, and with the ability to participate fully in their communities.”

At one time, the month of May was called Senior Citizens Month after a meeting in April 1963 between President John F. Kennedy and members of the National Council of Senior Citizens. Every president since has issued a proclamation asking the nation to pay tribute to older Americans.

Older Americans have decades of experiences and stories to share, and even people living with memory loss can talk about their earlier years. For an activity in May, students could interview their relatives or neighbors, and visitors and staff in the local care communities — Pine Ridge and BeeHive Homes — might listen to and possibly record the personal stories of residents there. Share photos, music and artwork from the past to encourage discussion while keeping in mind that everyone has different interests and comfort levels.

Community leaders might consider offering programs for the ever-increasing aging population, such as creating memory cafés and a dementia-friendly community, adding brain health classes, and building affordable housing for elders. Other ideas include expanding local funding for caregiving, transportation, activities and meal programs, as well as contributing to the new planned senior center.

Families, friends and the community also could organize a game night, music event or a workshop to help elders maintain their independence, such as teaching technology. The ACL website, acl.gov/oam/2022/oam-2022-activity-ideas, details these and other suggested activities.

SJBAAA offers resources for people age 60 and older or with Medicare; see sjbaaa.org. For further information and assistance, call (970) 264-0501 and listen to the recording to select an extension.