Experts believe the number of older adults in the U.S. will reach nearly 71 million by 2030. According to AARP, this expanding older adult population will significantly affect the nation’s public health system and increase the demand for aging- related services. “Spend time with elderly people, call your local nursing home and ask if there’s something you can do to support their residents as they deal with COVID- 19,” said Aaron Blight, the founder of Caregiving Kinetics and the author of the upcoming book, “When Caregiving Calls: Guidance as You Care for a Parent, Spouse, or Aging Relative.”
“Challenge cultural assumptions about aging or oldness. Rethink what retirement actually means, hire an older worker, and write a letter to an elderly person who has been confined to their home during COVID-19,” Blight suggested.
Jim Owen, a 79-year-old fitness enthusiast and the author and producer of “The Art of Aging Well,” which airs on PBS this fall, said if we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that the people most vulnerable are those with underlying health conditions.
September counts as National Healthy Aging Month, a period in which more than the usual attention is encouraged for seniors and their health. “We also know that these chronic diseases are, to some degree, lifestyle- related, so if you smoke, or are obese, or live a sedentary way of life, you are at higher risk of getting seriously ill or dying from the virus,” Owen noted. “The best way I’ve found to do that is by focusing on one healthy habit at a time— say, going for a walk everyday— and challenging yourself to keep it up for thirty days. Then make another small change. If you do that every month, imagine where you could be a year from now.”
Stephanie Erickson, a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Plan for Aging Well,” said the focus needs to center on a complete rebuild of the nation’s medical and healthcare system so older adults could receive care and support for “their body, mind, and soul.”
“Our current model is intervention and medically based and should include a balanced approach to provide opportunities for our emotional, psychological and spiritual wellbeing,” Erickson demanded. “Aging is scary for people and conversations about it are avoided, leaving older adults alone and without a clear plan of their expectations, in terms of care and support as they age. This creates unavoidable crises and family conflict.
“This pandemic has highlighted, very clearly, how little we support those who are aging. It is now time to rebuild the system completely.” Writer and educator Kathie Lapcevic says older adults should focus on simplifying their lives.
“Slowing down all the crazy distractions and overwhelm that comes with trying to do it all and be it all for everyone,” Lapcevic said. “Take time to live a life that is slower and more intentional with a focus on personal priorities, not those that are applied from social media or marketing.” For more information about older adults and National Healthy Aging Month, visit www.aarp.org or www.healthyaging.net.