It is time to Blaze a Trail with seniors across the country.
Celebrating Older Americans Month (OAM) gives us the opportunity to raise awareness about the issues facing our older adults as they try to blaze their own trails.
Over their lifetimes, seniors – including your senior loved ones – have made contributions to society in every avenue.
They have served and protected our freedom, supported the arts, helped us reach the moon, sat on the Supreme Court, invented things we need and furthered the scientific and medical fields. Seniors have supported the community, the economy and their families.
Many are still doing these things!
Since 1963 we have been setting aside May to honor our seniors, who give of themselves then and now.
They continue to disrupt the notion of aging and are continuing to make a positive impact on the world around them.
They expect to age well, be healthy, live long and pursue their dreams well into their future as never before.
We can follow their lead as role models and blaze a trail with them this May and all year round.
Seniors in the US
Did you realize that in 2013 there were 44.7 million seniors aged 65 and above, comprising 14.1% of the overall population?
In fact, 1 out of 7 people in the US are seniors!
By 2040, that number is expected to rise to 82.3 million or 21.7%.
In 2013, persons reaching age 65 had an average life expectancy of an additional 19.3 years.
Seniors are definitely living longer. The 85+ population is projected to triple from 6 million in 2013 to 14.6 million in 2040.
You might be amazed to learn that, in 2013, there were 67,347 persons aged 100 or more!
Can you imagine blowing out these birthday candles? 3.4 million persons celebrated their 65th birthday in 2013!
Older Americans by the Numbers
The Older Americans 2012: Key Indicators of WellBeing (Older Americans 2012) is the sixth in a series of reports by the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics that details the overall condition of seniors with 37 indicators of well-being.
The ultimate goal of this report is to make organizations, researchers and government entities aware of the future needs of seniors in order to improve their quality of life.
Here are some highlights from that report that show how seniors are blazing trails:
- As “Baby Boomers” approach older ages they are remaining in the labor force.
- 80% were high school graduates or more and 23% had a Bachelor’s degree or more. More education is linked with a reduced risk of dementia and a potential for improved socioeconomic status allowing for a more ‘comfortable’ retirement.
- About 11% of people age 65 and over reported participating in leisure-time aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities (we can do better than that!).
- There has been an increase in the use of hospice services among older Americans. This additional resource will help relieve some of the struggle of caregiving at the end of life.
- In 2010, 72% of older men lived with their spouse while less than half (42%) of older women did. This raises the question who will care for these older women without a spouse especially if there are no children?
- There were 9.7 million veterans age 65 and over in the US. Two out of three men age 65 and over were veterans. How will this impact long term healthcare services?
- In 2010, income for seniors came largely from four sources. Social Security = 37%, earnings = 30%, pensions = 19%, and asset income = 11%. Will they be able to afford aging in place?
- The largest expense for seniors is housing, followed by transportation, healthcare, and food.
- Six of the seven leading causes of death among older Americans are chronic diseases.
- Glasses, hearing aids, and regular dental care are not covered services under Medicare — all preventable debilitating impairments.
- 63% of seniors reported receiving a flu shot in the past 12 months and 60% ever received a pneumonia vaccination.
- In 2008, seniors with no chronic conditions incurred average prescription drug costs of $1,230 while those with five or more chronic conditions incurred $5,300 in prescription drug costs on average.
Help Seniors Loved Ones Blaze Their Trails
These statistics show that there are many ways that family caregivers can help improve the quality of life for their senior loved ones.
By making lifestyle improvements, such as physical activity, reduction or tight management of chronic diseases and preventive healthcare including vaccinations, caregivers can help seniors blaze a trail of health and wellness.
Here are some activities that you might find in your local communities to celebrate OAM. Some of these events could help seniors improve their health!
If you can’t find some events, maybe you can start your own!
- Host or attend a health fair where topics could include financial planning, healthy eating, physical activity, technology, volunteer opportunities, and health screenings.
- Give back to the community – finds ways to volunteer in the community serving seniors or other areas that help others. You might do a roadside cleanup, shoreline cleanup, read to children, help the food pantry or assist the dog shelter.
- Inter-generational activities – connect with organizations in need of mentors for students, Boys and Girls clubs, scouts, tutor teens and other ways to bring kids and elders together. Can you start an event where kids visit seniors such as visiting a nursing home, helping with yard work or other services needed?
- Thank seniors in your community by holding a luncheon to thank veterans, appreciate volunteers or entertain a senior group.
- Organize a book drive and collect books that gives books to kids.
- Support your community garden. Help dig in the dirt or distribute the bounty.
- Attend a cooking class with a dietitian to help eat healthier meals.
- Find a smoking cessation class and kick the habit!
- Go on a picnic with the grandkids!
- Get a health screening from the doctor, visit the dentist or eye doctor for a checkup or get your scheduled vaccination!
Healthy living is a choice. Everyone can choose to blaze a trail or be left in the dust.
As family caregivers, we can help our Older Americans blaze theirs!