May is Older Americans’ Month—a time to celebrate Communities of Strength. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy designated May as Senior Citizens’ Month, and it eventually became known as Older Americans’ Month. At that time, there were only 17 million Americans age 65 or older. About a third of those older adults lived in poverty, and there were few programs to meet their needs.
Now, there are more than 46 million older adults age 65 and older living in the U.S.; by 2050, that number is expected to grow up to 90 million people. Between 2020 and 2030 alone, the time the last of the baby boomers reach age 65, the number of older adults is projected to increase by almost 18 million people. This means, by 2030, one in five Americans is projected to be 65 years old and over.
This past year has been difficult for older adults, especially those who live in congregate care facilities. COVID-19 spread rapidly through nursing homes and assisted living facilities which led to families being restricted from visiting their loved ones for nearly a year. Many older adults experienced loneliness, isolation, confusion and anxiety. However, this generation is strong and resilient.
The Centralina Area Agency on Aging has worked with local service providers who partner with us to support, connect, engage and inspire older adults in our nine-county region. The mission of our collaborative partnership has been to keep seniors connected, healthy and cared for during the pandemic which exemplifies the “Communities in Strength” message.
“We are fortunate to work with providers who have been able to modify their operations during these unprecedented times to prevent a lapse in service delivery,” said Aging Specialist Natalie Tunney. “These critical services include home delivered meals, transportation to medical appointments and help at home,” added Tunney.
One of the tools that Centralina Area Agency on Aging team has used is called, GetSetUp, a suite of online resources for older adults. A finalist for the 2021 World Changing Ideas award, GetSetUp is a live, interactive learning platform for older adults. The platform helps older adults stay mentally and physically fit through a social learning environment specifically designed for them. Classes are taught by older adults and topics range from professional development to technology, health, wellness, hobbies and casual social hours.
“We built GetSetUp before the COVID-19 pandemic drove an increased need for online learning, but we are proud to offer this platform in a time when our older population truly needs it,” said Lawrence Kosick, co-founder at GetSetUp. “We look forward to continuing to expand the opportunities for older adults to learn and maintain active lifestyles,” Kosick added.
Trualta is another online tool that focuses specifically on the needs of caregivers. Enabling families to become confident and competent caregivers is critical to extending the length of time at home before assisted living or a skilled-nursing care is needed. Trualta’s developers researched the family caregiver experience extensively from the perspective of families as well as clinicians. Working with stakeholders, Trualta validated the usability of the platform, delivery of content and feasibility of improving health-related outcomes.
This month and every month, Centralina Regional Council appreciates and celebrates the community of providers who work to enrich the lives of older adults in our region. Thank you for improving the quality of life for seniors and their caregivers.