Older Americans Month dates back to 1963 when President John F. Kennedy, working with members of the National Council of Senior Citizens, designated May as “Senior Citizens Month.” At that time, only 17 million living Americans had reached their 65th birthday. About a third of older Americans lived in poverty and there were few programs to meet their needs.
As of July 2014, more than 46 million Americans were age 65 or older. Today 10 percent live in poverty and—thanks in large part to the Older Americans Act of 1965 that created a nationwide Aging Network—a large number of programs exist that make a significant difference in the lives of older adults. These include meals, job training, senior centers, caregiver support, transportation, health promotion, benefits enrollment, and more. (Note: The Older Americans Act requires periodic reauthorization. After a two-year gap, we are thankful that reauthorization occurred earlier this year. Many thanks to Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell for their leadership.)
By 2030, one in five Americans will be 65 or older. Over the next decade, this kind of growth will significantly increase demand for home- and community-based services like those offered by Area Agencies on Aging. Aging and Disability Services (ADS) is the Area Agency on Aging for King County.
ADS plans, coordinates, and advocates for a comprehensive service delivery system for older adults, family caregivers and people with disabilities in King County. The services and supports ADS provides enhance our ability to age in place, in the homes and communities of our choice, among the people we love and who love and support us.
Ninety percent of adults age 65 and older say they hope to stay in their homes and communities for as long as possible. But to do so, many will need some level of service or support. ADS encourages healthy choices and self-sufficiency throughout life in order to live comfortably later in life. When health or financial well-being are compromised in later life or due to a disability at any age, ADS provides information and resources that can help maintain quality of life.
ADS helps residents navigate the complex map of community-based services and supports to ensure their comfort and quality of life. ADS provides services for people where they live, which saves residents money and also saves taxpayer dollars. Home-based supports cost a fraction of the institutional care options like nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities.
As we look at statistics on the aging of America, and as we observe Older Americans Month, I ask these questions:
- How can we support healthy aging even more effectively?
- How can we shift society’s perspective from one of fearing and dismissing aging to embracing aging—the experience and wisdom gained in a lifetime—and celebrating the ways in which older adults keep our communities vibrant?
- What do we need to do to build age-friendly communities throughout King County and the region?
The theme of Older Americans Month 2016 is “Blaze a Trail.” The federal Administration on Community Living tells us to “use this opportunity to raise awareness about important issues facing older adults … (and) highlight the ways that older Americans are advocating for themselves, their peers, and their communities.”
I am proud to chair the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services—passionate advocates for healthy aging as well as the services and supports people need to live independently. Their advocacy blazes a trail for their peers and for younger members of our communities. (I remind you, aging is not just for old people.)
Thank you to Mary Anderson, Marsha Andrews, Kenmore Mayor David Baker, Claire Brannan, Katty Chow, Beverly Heyden, Seattle City Councilmember Debora Juarez, Eric Martenson, Kathe Matrone, Mac McIntosh, Kate Miller, Tony Provine, Sue Shaw, Lorna Stone and Kathy Wilcox for your Advisory Council service and community leadership—past, present, and future.
Contributor Molly Holmes is the chair of the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services, which publishes AgeWise King County. Molly welcomes input from readers via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) as well as applicants for open positions on the council. For more information, visit www.agingkingcounty.org/advisory-council.
Molly Holmes’ photo by Lorraine Sanford.
|The Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services meets monthly, except January and October.|