This month at ACL we’ve been celebrating Older Americans Month by sharing trailblazer stories (and selfies). The stories and images that have come in from around the country tell a story about what it means to age at this particular moment in history.
We all know that older adults are living longer. But there is more to it than that. What these Older Americans Month stories and selfies reveal is that older adults are transforming what it means to be 60, 70, 80, and even 100 plus. They are reinventing the idea of old age and doing it in ways that improve their communities, their health, their families—and that set an example for the generations to come. They are literally blazing a trail forward—setting the course for the rest of us to follow. And that’s important because in a few short years, more than 77 million people will be over the age of 60. That’s a lot of room for trailblazing in all aspects of our lives.
Over the past seven years, I have had the honor of leading the agency that oversees many of the programs that support older adults on this incredible journey. Our largest programs are made possible by the Older Americans Act, which Congress reauthorized and the president signed into law last month. Through the Aging Network, programs provide healthy meals, nutrition counseling, help with home chores, transportation, and other support to help older adults live in communities and homes of their choosing.
The Act provides funding for elder rights programs that protect older adults in their communities and in long-term care facilities. We have built a federal home for Adult Protective Services to support the evolution of this critical field. While there is still work to be done, this is one of the things of which I am most proud.
Together these efforts help ensure that older adults have the support they need to live independently, free of harm, and with dignity. That support is making it possible for people to redefine aging, making it what it should be: something to celebrate.
If you haven’t read our trailblazer stories, I encourage you to do so. Share them with your friends and neighbors. Use them as a roadmap to 21st century aging. Or, simply find inspiration for your next endeavor. We will use stories like these and other evidence from the field to make sure that ACL programs continue to meet the real-world needs of older Americans.
This Older Americans Month and beyond, let’s blaze a trail together—for ourselves, for our communities, and for our nation.