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Celebrating Older Americans Month 2011

How many of you can picture your grandparents playing the Wii at home...?


"When you help seniors thrive in your community, you gain far more than you give." This sentiment was stated in an article from the Administration of Aging, and is one that undoubtedly holds more truth than many realize. When you think about all of the history and experiences created by older Americans, and just the general wealth of knowledge that they possess in general, it is truly amazing.

Since 1963, when President John F. Kennedy made it official, May has been known as Older Americans Month. This is a time when our country celebrates the accomplishments, and ongoing contributions the elderly have made in our communities and individual lives. This is also a time where communities work to reshape and improve the image of older Americans in our society, as well as further develop and maintain caregiver workforce needs for this growing population. Here is a brief overview of how rapidly the elderly population has grown in our country:

1963:  17 million Americans are 65 and older Today:  40 million Americans are 65 and older *That's a 135% increase and makes the elderly about 12% of our total population. 1900:  100,000 Americans are 85 and older 2000:  4.2 million Americans are 85 and older

That is a huge, huge increase that can largely be attributed to advances in technology, and education which have increased the value and attainability of more active, healthier lifestyles. The theme for Older Americans Month this year is Older Americans:  Connecting the Community, and the U.S. Administration of Aging is sponsoring two great activities that help bring communities together to celebrate the elderly and the impact that they've had on society today:

The first is the Connecting Generations Video Challenge. This activity allows teams of at least 2 people (one person must be over 60, and another must be under 60) to create a 90 second video that creatively demonstrates the role of older Americans in connecting the community. Entries are posted online via the Older Americans Month website, and can be viewed and voted on by everyone. This is great because it gets people of all ages involved and creatively interacting with one another. It also initiates awareness of the impact that older Americans have had on society throughout history, and where we would be today without them (eg. the culture, civil rights, women's rights, those who have defended the country, etc.).

The second activity is the Community Connection Video Game Tournament. This fun-filled challenge allows teams of people in participating senior centers to compete against each other in the interactive video game, Wii bowling. After 2 rounds of play, the senior centers with the highest average score will be publicly recognized by the U.S. Administration of Aging and the highest scoring player on each team will be announced on the Older Americans Month website after each round of play. What I like about this activity is the use of popular modern technology. I'm not sure how many elderly people are familiar with interactive video games, but Wii Bowling is a tame, user-friendly game that is not only a great group activity, but also one that encourages physical activity and people of all ages to interact together in a fun, new way.

So, in honor of older Americans everywhere, why not use what's left of this month to get to know your elders? This celebration is about increasing awareness in communities, getting more people involved in caregiving, and paying homage to those who have made life as we know it today possible. I just might use this opportunity to introduce my grandparents to a family-friendly game of Wii!

How did you celebrate Older Americans Month 2011?

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