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Celebrating the Power of Connection This Older Americans Month

May 28, 2024
Kari Benson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Aging

Have you ever tried to make an important call only to realize your phone battery is too low? What if you needed to call 911 to get help?

Keeping our rechargeable devices powered up can be an important part of staying safe and healthy. The same is true of people and communities. Keeping them powered up through connection helps us stay at our best.

ACL celebrates Older Americans Month each May to recognize the invaluable contributions and influential presence of older adults in our communities. It’s also an opportunity to raise awareness of how we can maintain our health and independence as we age and recommit to ensuring that older adults have the support they need to age in place.

With Powered by Connection as our theme this year, we are drawing attention to social relationships, community engagement, and connection to services as vital components of our well-being.

Study after study — and insights from the U.S. Surgeon General's Advisory: Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community — illustrate the profound value of meaningful connections. These connections aren't just about preventing negatives like loneliness and isolation; they also contribute to a sense of belonging and increased life satisfaction. Meaningful engagement can help to reduce stress, decrease the risk of anxiety and depression, and may even strengthen the immune system. Relationships can lower one’s risk of chronic health conditions, increase nutritional intake, and improve self-care.

We can plug into the power of connection in many ways. Our connections with family and friends are often what come to mind first. This can include anything from a quick chat with a neighbor to deep emotional bonds forged through caregiving relationships. For older adults — and people of all ages — both giving and receiving care builds a sense of community.

Equally important is engagement in the community through volunteering, working, and other activities. These connections strengthen social networks and create a feeling of purpose, all while providing invaluable services to the community.

At ACL, we promote community engagement, inclusion, and aging in place by funding programs that provide services, supports, and opportunities to live, work, and play in our communities. We also fund resources to help people connect to those programs. For example, ACL funds the Eldercare Locator and Disability Information and Access Line, which are national hotlines that connect people to local services, like transportation and meal programs, and most ACL programs operated by the aging and disability networks connect older adults to critical information so that they can make informed decisions about housing, health care, caregiving, and more. We support initiatives like Commit to Connect and engAGED: The National Resource Center for Engaging Older Adults (a project to build the capacity of ACL’s aging services network to offer and enhance social engagement opportunities). We also partner with other federal agencies — like AmeriCorps — to create opportunities for older adults and people with disabilities to experience social connections through volunteering.

Communities are stronger when everyone is included and connected, and ACL programs help to make that inclusion and connection a reality in communities across the nation.

To help us celebrate this year’s theme, we encourage everyone to promote the power of connection. Share facts, stories, resources, and engagement opportunities with your communities. I challenge you also to power yourself up — sign up to volunteer, join a club, introduce yourself to a neighbor, or contact your local community or senior center. Technology offers convenient ways to connect — phone an old friend, join an online group, or explore social networking. No matter how you decide to engage, don’t put off plugging in.

More Resources

Hear the Surgeon General’s remarks at the recent National Summit for Social Connections where he describes how the power of connection promotes the health and well-being of older adults, caregivers, and people with disabilities.

Last modified on 06/21/2024

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