Please Join Us in Celebrating Older Americans Month
For all of Us Not Just ‘Them’
The Administration on Community Living created a lovely press kit for this year’s Older Americans Month in February. “For 57 years, Older Americans Month (OAM) has been a special time to recognize these contributions. Led by the Administration for Community Living (ACL) each May, OAM also provides resources to help older Americans stay healthy and independent, and materials to help communities support and celebrate their citizens.” ACL promotion of OAM materials.
I read through the materials in hopes of sharing their message with you today. However, we have a new reality since these materials were created in February 2020. Social isolation and the nefarious virus have changed our communities and our families. I have bolded the calls to action I believe we should celebrate in 2020.
Older Americans Month is a time to examine what a livable wage and a social safety net means in the 21st Century
Today many seniors have returned to work competing with young workers for the frontline positions putting them at risk for contracting the virus. Did you know that most people arrive at the age 65 financially unprepared for the years ahead? The Baby Boomer generation has over 50% in the retirement age. On average, each person will need $55,000.00 per year in retirement. Unfortunately, many have not saved and the median Social Security income of $17,000.00 leaving a large gap of uncovered living expenses. The economic crisis we are living is impacting working age and retired who struggle to find food and pay for living expenses. Stress is breaking the mental and physical well being of many today. When will we abandon the notion of pulling yourself up ‘by the boot straps’ when so much remains beyond our individual control?
Older Americans Month is a time to collaborate on aging in place, home safety and accessible communities
We have read the tragic stories of high infection and death rates in our skilled nursing, nursing home and assisted living facilities. Most Americans are eager to remain in the community at every age. Look around and picture your future self. Could you navigate the stairs? Is the bathroom safe? Are you living close enough to reach a healthcare provider or emergency help when needed? Is the home ready for weather extremes? Housing and transportation go hand in hand as we age. While the long drive to find groceries may seem like a pleasant day trip today, are you ready to use online shopping when driving or finding a willing driver is no longer an option? Social distancing, closed stores and reduced public services leave those without internet or smart devices cut off which impacts inner city and rural communities most profoundly.
Older Americans Month is a time for all Americans to rally behind team humanity
The pandemic is the natural disaster that continues to roll across our country. The rising number of vulnerable seniors dying every day is criminal. There, I said it. Why do we react different when it is our grandmother instead of their grandmother or aunt, uncle, parent, close friend? The healthcare, public service and frontline workers who serve us through this event go home to families they too worry about infecting. Have you witnessed the many social media posts of hospital staff “We stay at work for you, Please stay at home for us.” The hospital staff are our family. They are the ones holding our loved one’s hand and saying our goodbyes. Remember, we are all on the side of team humanity. Join us in showing your team spirit by wearing face mask, washing your hands frequently and practice social distancing.
Let us honor and protect our Older Americans with our actions this month and always