May is Older Americans Month: It’s Time to "Unleash the Power of Age"

Carrie Steckl earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a Minor in Gerontology from Indiana University – Bloomington in 2001. She has spent over ...Read More

Right now, I’d like you to think of an older person who inspires you. Don’t think about it too hard – just let that person gently enter your consciousness.

Who is it? A parent? A grandparent? Perhaps a mentor or someone famous whom you feel is a model for growing older?

These are the folks I want you to think about in May, which the Administration on Aging (AoA) has designated Older Americans Month. I love the theme they’ve chosen this year: “Unleash the Power of Age.” Too often, we associate events like Older Americans Month with frailty and the need to improve and increase services for older people who are ill, disabled, or impoverished.

I’m not saying those augmented services aren’t needed, because they are. But this year, the AoA boldly challenges us to consider a new image of aging – one that is far more vibrant, positive, and visible in our society.

This alternative image celebrates, according the Older Americans Month website, our elders who are “achieving remarkable things in later life.” To do this, 10 individuals will be recognized who have demonstrated leadership to improve the lives of others and who have utilized their talents and expertise to make a meaningful impact in their communities and society at large.

Here’s where you come in. These 10 older adults will be featured at Challenge.gov throughout the month of May to provide the public with an opportunity to vote for its favorite participants. The top 3 winners will be featured on the Older Americans Month website and through the AoA’s social media outlets.

I strongly encourage you to participate in the challenge by learning about these extraordinary individuals and voting. By doing so, you are affirming a positive conception of old age and taking a stand against ageism.

Given that I teach social gerontology at the college level, this issue is near and dear to my heart. Ageism – the systematic stereotyping of, and discrimination against, people because they are old – is a social problem that emanates on individual, family, community, and societal levels. It can isolate older people, result in abuse or neglect, and in my opinion, contribute to mental health problems among the aged.

So please help celebrate Older Americans Month by participating in this worthwhile challenge. All you have to do is vote! You can also celebrate aging by organizing events and sharing your creativity with elders – for more specific ideas, click here.

But perhaps the most important thing you can do to celebrate Older Americans Month is to imagine yourself at a vibrant old age. Cultivating positive images now can set you on the path toward achieving multidimensional wellness in later life.

Keep Reading By Author Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.
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