By Jason W. Swanson, Executive Director, Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging
Each month has its unique monikers in relation to observations or awareness. For example, February is American Heart Month, when we take time to have a greater knowledge of heart disease, causes, risk factors and more. The American Heart Association ties it in with Valentine’s Day and encourages individuals to wear red. When March hits, do we stop thinking about heart disease? Maybe some do, but not those affected by it.
In May we observed Older Americans Month, led by the Administration for Community Living (ACL). The purpose of Older Americans Month is to recognize the contributions of older adults throughout the nation. It is also an opportunity to raise awareness regarding abuse and/or neglect within the older adult population. As the Area Agency on Aging in southwest Minnesota we ramp up our marketing efforts during May to spread the word about our agency and the services we offer to older adults, caregivers and service providers in the 27-county area.
What happens in June, July and the rest of the year? Do we stop recognizing older adults and ramp up efforts to celebrate Donald Duck Day on June 9? No, we must continue the conversation throughout the year about the importance of older Americans in our society. Why? Let’s talk numbers.
According to Minnesota Compass, in 1950 there were about 269,000 individuals who were age 65 years or older living in Minnesota. In 2015, there were about 806,000 and in 2035 it is projected to jump to 1.3 million people age 65 or older. A large increase, to say the least. That’s why it’s so important to not only celebrate or observe one month for older Americans (defined in this article as 60 years or older). We need to begin to take an active approach of connecting with our friends, family and neighbors; create through activities that promote learning, health and personal enrichment and contribute time, talent and life experience to benefit others.
I’d like to take this opportunity to challenge you to reflect on what you can do to benefit older Americans. What does your community need to be an age-friendly community? What do your friends, family and neighbors need to be able to age successfully? What do you need to age successfully?
May isn’t the only time to reflect and be aware of older Americans. I encourage you to share your success stories with me and your newspaper. Let’s have the conversation, let’s be open-minded and work together to create an age-friendly Minnesota.
As the executive director for the Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging (MNRAAA) I have the luxury of traveling to numerous locations and visiting with many groups and organizations who are as equally excited as I am to effect positive changes in our communities. MNRAAA wants to continue to provide the assistance, resources and grant opportunities to effect these changes. I look forward to hearing and seeing the things we can do to accomplish this feat.