Don’t let seniors be forgotten
If Don Draper were real and alive today, he would be 90 years old. This fictional leading man of the TV show “Mad Men” was in his prime in the 1960s-era show, running an ad agency, fraternizing with beautiful people, partying like a champ.
But does anyone still care about 90-year-old Don Draper. Does he still have a voice?
Despite all of his character flaws (and there are many), he is representative of a generation that defined the nation; a generation who worked for change in American society. These innovators, authors, public servants, activists and artists inspired the generations that have followed to strive and achieve a level of success that those before could only dream of reaching.
But now that they’ve reached senior-citizen age, does anyone care about them? Is anyone doing anything to remind older adults that they still have value? Not just provide them any care that might be required, but actually taking the time to see what value these seniors can provide?
As we age, life changes. The longer people live, the more changes people experience. Imagine life after 75, and the losses suffered – outliving some family members, friends and colleagues; perhaps losing mobility; losing independence; having to fight feelings of being forgotten. It’s normal for older adults to experience sadness and loneliness because the social life they once enjoyed sometimes no longer exists.
With 93,823 county residents over the age of 60, how many feel their worlds have grown smaller? Their voices still matter. Their voices are still relevant. Talking to older adults, visiting them, encouraging them to remain part of the community can remind them of their worth. Think about the way you treat an older person, how you talk to them; would you want to be talked to the same way?
Washington is the volunteer coordinator for the Stanislaus County Area Agency on Aging.
Living longer and living better
To quote Bette Davis, the former film star, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” As one grows older, physical aches and pains begin to appear. Waking up in the morning can introduce a new ailment, or the “ache du jour.” Our minds have also begun to play tricks on us. Have you gone into a room and forgotten why you went in there?
Census figures show that older people are growing in numbers and living longer. During the 20th century, life expectancy grew by three decades. More people live until they are 100 years old or longer. We might be approaching a time when older adults will outnumber children for the first time in history.
Why is this happening?
First, science and medicine have made great strides as we’ve learned more about the human body, including the differences in the physical makeup and aging process between men and women.
Intensive research has developed more and better medical solutions to treat illnesses and disease. Through the miracle of the Internet, health findings and recommendations are easily available to anyone with a computer.
Second, the focus has moved from curing diseases to preventing them. Everyone is encouraged to take responsibility for their own health by examining their lifestyle. Researchers at Northwestern University concluded that strategies to improve lifestyle behaviors and mental health might have a major impact in cutting the chances of contracting a debilitating disease and shortening our lives.
The small mountain town of Groveland has developed a strategic program – “The Village On the Hill” – that allows older adults to improve the quality of their lives. Most prefer to remain in their homes as they age. They may need assistance, support and friendship. Neighbor volunteers help each other through personal daily contact, performing minor household chores and providing transportation.
This is not a new concept. More than 100 communities across the nation have established the Village model as people live longer and lead more active lives. The new longevity is not just about living longer, but living better and maintaining a balanced, vital lifestyle with dignity and respect.
Garber, Ph.D., is a licensed marriage and family therapist.
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