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Aging Unbound: Rethinking Aging During Older Americans Month

May 23, 2023
Edwin Walker, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Aging

Aging today isn’t what we thought of 60 years ago, when Older Americans Month (OAM) was celebrated for the first time. Older Americans are living longer and staying active in their communities in more ways than ever before. Their active engagement in work, volunteerism, education, and civics demonstrates that older age is a dynamic and vibrant phase of life. The number of people over 65 has more than doubled since the 1960s, and older adults represent a rapidly growing proportion of our population. Today’s older people grew up challenging societal expectations, and true to form, they are changing how we think about older age.

This year’s OAM theme, “Aging Unbound,” reflects the broad spectrum of experiences of older adults today and offers an opportunity to explore aging without being boxed in by stereotypes.

Stereotypes and dated expectations about aging can negatively impact older adults and communities. Stereotypes can restrict employment, education, and social engagement opportunities for older adults, stifling their potential contributions and fostering isolation. Outdated beliefs about aging also can lead older adults to embrace self-limiting attitudes, hindering their fulfillment and community participation. These consequences lead to poorer overall health and wellness.

Older adults’ well-being is central to ACL’s mission. Our programs, ranging from nutrition services and health promotion to elder justice and caregiver support, help older Americans maintain their health and independence as they age. Through person-centered, culturally competent approaches, ACL and the aging and disability networks work day in and day out to fight ageism and to promote flexible thinking, changes in perspective, and the benefits of including people of all ages in our communities.


ACL also strives to foster an understanding of diversity among older adults. Our programs engage in and promote activities that respect each unique older adult’s preferences, needs, and background. We highlight the benefits of inclusive language, activities, and policies. We push others and ourselves to strengthen our embrace of older Americans as essential contributors to our communities.

ACL and the aging services network also promote the positive aspects of growing older. For example, older adults have knowledge gained through lived experience, which means they often are uniquely positioned to serve as trusted leaders and mentors in their communities. We support leveraging that experience through intergenerational programs and other community connections. Such initiatives are mutually beneficial to older adults and the others who participate, and they also demonstrate that diversity of abilities and experiences does not end with age. And most people, regardless of age, have more in common than they may have realized. These initiatives create opportunities for communities to see the important contributions older adults can make, which in turn helps to build more inclusive communities.

Throughout May, ACL, our networks, and others have used Facebook and Twitter to highlight inspiring older adults who are pushing boundaries. We have heard many strategies on how to combat ageism and countless examples of how the aging services network is supporting diverse communities across the country.

As this year’s celebration of OAM comes to a close, I encourage all of us to remember that we are so much more than our age. Our number of years may serve to mark our growth but makes up only one part of our complex identities.

Let’s continue to reimagine aging, unbound by ageism and other old ways of thinking. Inclusive communities are strong communities, and we all benefit when older people have the opportunity to contribute. 

Learn more about the history of OAM and find materials to help you celebrate at Don’t forget to share your activities using #OlderAmericansMonth!

Last modified on 05/23/2023

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