Now More Than Ever

Lord Derby (above) knew it more than 140 years ago: keep moving or grow ill. Countless research projects back up his statement. Among them, Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko and associates (Successful Aging: The Role of Physical Activity, American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine) found that regular physical activity not only positively affects overall health for older adults, it can increase life expectancy.

As Group Health physician Christine Himes Fordyce has said, "There is no more important 'prescription' to write, individualize and assure compliance with than regular physical activity for all patients, whether robust or frail, living independently or in nursing homes."

So, how are we doing? A look at the American Community Survey (administered by the U.S. Census Bureau) provides a rather shocking statistic. More than one-third of King County residents age 65 and over report having one or more disabilities. This doesn't sit well with me, and I hope it makes you uncomfortable as well.

Many disabilities common among older adults can be avoided by staying active and becoming more active. And that's not always easy, but if you need inspiration, please read articles in this newsletter related to chronic health conditions (Healthy Living for Graceful Aging) and fitness (EnhanceFitness: Reduced Costs and Improved Health Outcomes for Medicare Beneficiaries).

Other articles in this issue emphasize the importance of regular health screenings and building a good relationship with a health care provider. As chair of the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging and Disability Services (ADS), I'm fully aware that thousands of residents need additional support in order to accomplish these things—information and assistance, case management, transportation, nutrition, health promotion, disease prevention, caregiver support, respite, senior employment, legal services, elder abuse and neglect prevention, housing modification and repair, in-home chore services, and more. As the Area Agency on Aging for King County, ADS and its contractors offer these services to adults in need. We can thank the federal Older Americans Act for that.

This photo, often used in conjunction with signing of the Older Americans Act, actually shows President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964—50 years ago this month, another great milestone in American history. The Older Americans Act followed one year later.

Older Americans Act: Needed now more than ever

Established in 1965, the Older Americans Act has been the foundation of our national system of home and community-based services for older Americans. The Act provides funding to states for a range of community planning and service programs to older residents at risk of losing their independence, as well as the caregivers who support them.

More than 600 Area Agencies on Aging across the country receive Older Americans Act funds to develop and coordinate a wide array of local home and community-based services for older adults and caregivers. ADS has served in this role in King County since 1973.

Over the years, the Older Americans Act has been amended 15 times, most recently in 2006, to expand the scope of services, increase local control and responsibility, and add more protections for the elderly. With a surging percentage of older residents in our communities, we need the Act more than ever. We are waiting for Congress to update and reauthorize the Older Americans Act now.

To learn more about the Older Americans Act and its current status, please read:

The health and independence of our friends and elders depends on it.

Contributor Tony Provine is serving his second term as chair of the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services, which publishes AgeWise King County. He welcomes input from readers via e-mail (advisorychair@agewisekingcounty.org) as well as applicants for open positions on the council, when they occur. For more information, visit www.agingkingcounty.org/advisory-council.