Celebrating Older Americans Month

May 1, 2013

Since I was first elected to the State Senate over two years ago, I have been working to improve the quality of life for Connecticut seniors. Each age group faces their own set of unique challenges, from children and teenagers to adults and seniors. Here in the Greater Naugatuck Valley, our communities have some of the highest percentages of residents over the age of 65. For this reason, I believe the state should do more to help our aging population, and I am confident that the legislature can make real strides toward lessening the burden on our seniors and their caregivers.

As ranking Senator of the Aging Committee, I am proud of the committee efforts taken in this year’s legislative session. Over the next several weeks, we will be considering many proposals that I introduced and hope will ultimately become law. While we await future action on these proposals in the Senate, I would like to focus your attention to an important occasion this month.

Each May, our nation celebrates Older Americans Month. Since 1963, this special designation has been an opportunity to appreciate and celebrate the significant contributions that our seniors make in our communities each and every day. This year, the theme of Older Americans Month is “Unleash the Power of Age.”

What does this year’s theme mean? With improved health care, people are living longer than ever before. This means that older adults are achieving remarkable things later in life. Our seniors are a valuable source of knowledge, talent and experience. Their contributions improve the lives of others through volunteering and dedicating their time to group and events which benefit our community.

To help celebrate these contributions, the U.S. Administration on Aging launched a website with several helpful suggestions about how we can best recognize seniors in our community during Older Americans Month and throughout the year. These activities will help connect the young, middle aged and older residents in our community to celebrate the many talents, experiences and interests that make our seniors valuable members of society. Here are some of the possible activities:

The first is to volunteer. Whether you read to children at a library, tutor a student, collect food for the hungry or clean up and beautify our roads and parks, there are many opportunities to volunteer in our neighborhood. For those who are younger, consider planning a service activity to bring older residents together to help solve the challenges facing our towns and cities.

Another activity is to begin a continuing education or speaker series. Our seniors possess a unique understanding and deep knowledge of their profession, a craft or an area of expertise. Some are professors, authors or other experts who can share their impressive talent to enrich our younger generation. These public presentations would celebrate this knowledge and provide seniors an opportunity to remain engaged with the community.

A third activity is to organize a potluck meal or put together a community cookbook. Invite older individuals and other members of the community to prepare a dish. Afterward, consider collecting the recipes and creating a community cookbook that can be shared with participants. The local Meals on Wheels and other nutritional services can help get homebound older adults involved in the event.

Other activities include coordinating a community-wide sports day to help residents stay in shape and promote overall well-being. Another option is to start a community garden or beautification club. Gardening provides opportunities for people of all ages to get outside for fresh air and exercise and also to grow healthy and delicious vegetables and fruit to supplement our daily meals, as well as, to plant flowers and shrubs to beautify our neighborhoods.

These are just some of the possible activities that will help celebrate Older Americans Month and make a real difference for seniors living in our communities. While this is an excellent opportunity to recognize and appreciate the significant contributions that seniors make in our towns and cities, I would encourage these efforts to keep seniors engaged in our community life all year round. If you would like to learn more, please visit the Older Americans Month website at www.OlderAmericansMonth.acl.gov.