In May, Older Americans Month, many organizations are reminding our increasing senior population to “engage at any age,” encouraging development of their physical, mental and emotional well-being. You’ll find groups like our Senior Center in Madison and statewide are firm believers in successful aging. Seniors need to stay healthy and involved, engage in life and activities with others, and keep their minds and bodies active. For senior centers, assisted living communities, programs for the elderly and others, celebrating being a senior is more than a month, it’s a year-round commitment to meeting the growing needs of an increasingly active population.
Where passive activities like reading and listening to music once were the norm, now we incorporate Zumba; vigorous walking and exercise; trips to exciting locales; physically interactive video games; smartphone, computer and artificial intelligence user classes; and much more. Isolation is discouraged in favor of working out the mind and body.
The U.S. Census Bureau indicates that from 2000 to 2016, the number of people age 65 and older jumped by 15 percent from 35 million to 49 million, and a big wave of baby boomers is waiting in the wings to push those numbers even higher.
Living longer is great, but it also brings some unique challenges. Budgeting weighs heavily on those with fixed incomes, so guest speakers discussing financial issues are popular these days. Health care is another hot topic. Whether you’re a senior, care for one, or are a concerned relative, you need to make sure health and immunization records are current and appropriate treatment is provided for any ongoing or chronic illnesses. Seniors need to avoid disability and disease. A big part of that is keeping those 65-plus safe from diseases like the flu, shingles and pneumococcal pneumonia.
The CDC indicates nearly one out of every 20 adults who contracts pneumococcal pneumonia will die from the illness; combined with influenza, pneumonia was the eighth-leading cause of death last year in the United States. Remember, a simple vaccination can protect seniors from one of the deadliest diseases out there and most insurance covers these shots. It’s up to you to get them.
Finally, as you plan outings this summer and lighter activities, don’t forget your parents or grandparents. They love to see friends, go to church and just be included in the fun. Many parks are now handicapped-accessible and have safe swimming, fishing and picnic areas. Grandparents can actively participate and/or offer some sideline wisdom on the activity or project as mentors. The best mental pick-me-up could be as simple as a sunny afternoon drive with family or watching the grandkids play in the yard. A simple, warm hug and telling older relatives you love them also does wonders and should never be overlooked.
Christine Beatty is director of Madison’s Senior Center and senior services.
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