Written by Behnaz Sarrami, MS, PharmD, pharmacogenomics coach, medical science liaison at Missouri Pharmacogenomics Consulting, LLC
Every May, since 1963, Older Americans are celebrated for the challenges they have overcome and the contributions they have made to our society. This year, with the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a need to highlight the unique situation through which they have fought and to celebrate their ability to push forward through difficult circumstances. For example, many older adults have had to learn how to have virtual medical appointments with their providers or learned to navigate the desire to continue working or volunteering in their community while keeping themselves safe.
This May let’s focus on the many ways we can recognize and celebrate older Americans, especially after the challenges they have faced in the last few years. Below are the top 5 ideas to help you get started:
Stay in touch with the older adults in your life
We are all wired to be around others as we are social creatures. Socializing increases cognition, mental and physical health and decreases isolation and loneliness. It is important to be involved in each other’s lives in meaningful ways. Older adults are especially vulnerable to isolation for reasons including losing loved ones or increased difficulty with community mobility.
It is important that older adults are celebrated for the important role they continue to play in society. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, distance has become a barrier to creating and maintaining important connections. Thankfully, advances in social media platforms have made communications and sharing of pictures and moments more accessible. Video chat is another avenue that older adults can use to stay virtually connected with their loved ones. We can learn so much from older adults and the wisdom they have through the stories they share. Reach out to an older adult today to connect.
Covid-19 has taught us the value of life and family. However, many relationships may have been strained due to either health related issues or the stress that has resulted from living during a pandemic. Many families have been torn by differences in their response to pandemic and political beliefs. Yet we need to come together to resolve and rekindle those bonds. Reach out, mend and create stronger bonds while you can. It is never easy to mend broken relationships, but it’s not impossible if the desire is there. Reach out to a professional if necessary.
Learn the myths of aging
There are different types of depression. Chronic depression is considered long term and the type usually associated with older adults. However, depression is not a direct result of aging and is actually more prevalent amongst younger adults. Situational depression is a short-term condition that develops as a result of a traumatic event, such as Covid-19. Situational depression can turn into chronic depression but usually when the situation or the traumatic event is removed, the person may no longer feel depressed. If the feelings linger, professional health may be needed.
Another myth is the inability to learn new skills as a direct result of aging. Older adults have proven to be more resilient and able to find new ways to manage their difficult situation. This has included using new technology to see their doctors through virtual appointments or learning other media platforms and technologies such as Zoom for their meetings, etc.
This is just one example of many myths about older adults. Learn more from National Institute of Aging at 10 Myths About Aging | National Institute on Aging (nih.gov).
Extend invitations to social events such as local schools
Senior centers help people over 55 years of age to stay both mentally and physically active. There are various programs and activities that are listed on Activities for Senior Centers | Senior Center Activities (seniorcenterdirectory.com).
Make a “Senior Day” and invite older adults to schools to read with children or help teachers in the classroom. Have them use their expertise to teach a free workshop in the subject matter they are comfortable with. AmeriCorps is a federal agency that brings people together to help the community through volunteering and national service. There are currently over 400 seniors that volunteer through the AmeriCorps Seniors Oasis AmeriCorps Seniors – Oasis Intergenerational Tutoring (oasisnet.org) throughout Missouri and Illinois, helping children in schools.
Levering the skill sets older adults have impacts their mental health in a positive way which in turn brings more value to the society as a whole.
Stay connected with the latest research on National Institute of Aging (NIA)
National Institute of Aging (NIA), branch of National Institute of Health (NIH), is a leader in aging research that provides a wide range of health-related information and resources for both consumers and providers. There are many free useful information that can be found on the website such as information on different health conditions, eating healthy, and free publications to print and post in organizations or office setting.
Whether you are interested to learn more for yourself or as a caretaker to an older adult, NIA provides educational information on healthy behavior and lifestyles to prevent and delay age related diseases.
To learn more
Visit Order Free Publications | Publication Ordering System and Contact Report System (nih.gov)
Celebrating Older Adults should not just be in the month of May but every day. This month we should celebrate and acknowledge their strength, endurance, and how much they have overcome the many challenges of the pandemic.
How many people can you think of at this moment that you can reach out to and celebrate with them?