Every May, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) leads an observance of Older Americans Month to celebrate the older adults in our communities. Their unique experience and talents benefit their family, peers and neighbors every day.

In a special message to Congress in 1976 regarding the Older Americans Act, President Gerald Ford spoke eloquently about the need to protect and support seniors:

“We must continue and strengthen both our commitment to doing everything we can to respond to the needs of the elderly and our determination to draw on their strengths. Our entire history has been marked by a tradition of growth and progress. Each succeeding generation can measure its progress in part by its ability to recognize, respect and renew the contributions of earlier generations.” – President Gerald Ford, 1976

Today, these words have never been truer as our younger generations have the opportunity to learn from and celebrate the remarkable stories of the older generations still living today.

“The generation that came of age in the 1940s had survived the poverty of the Great Depression to win a global war that cost 60 million lives, while participating in the most profound economic and technological transformation in human history as a once rural America metamorphosed into a largely urban and suburban culture of vast wealth and leisure,” writes Victor Hanson, a senior fellow in classics and military history at the Hoover Institution.

In his article, “Baby Boomer Inventions that Changed the World,” author Patrick Kiger enumerates some of the many scientific and technological innovations sparked by the generation born between 1946 and 1964. “Ask the average person to name who dreamed up the web, DNA fingerprinting or the lithium-ion battery, and most likely you’ll draw a blank stare. That anonymity is deceptive. Boomers’ inventions — ranging from the now-ubiquitous World Wide Web to the synthetic cell and the nanoscale motor — promise to reshape the world of the 21st century as surely as Edison’s and Tesla’s set the stage for the 20th,” he writes.

Let’s show the older adults in our lives some love this month by giving them our care and attention, and taking the time to listen to their unique experiences. The ACL shares the following ideas:

Share Your Stories

Stories build community and connect us. Sharing what we love about our friends and family members helps them feel stronger and more connected. Encourage individuals to share stories with the people they live with, in writing, in pictures, or by phone or video call.

To help jumpstart memories, consider asking your loved ones:

  • What would you like to tell your 22-year-old self?
  • What are the best and worst pieces of advice you’ve received?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • Looking back, is there something you wish you had done that you did not?
  • What do you wish the world knew about you?

For more ideas, see the Great Questions list from StoryCorps.

Make Connections

Even during this current time of social distancing, it’s still possible to connect with others and spend time with our older loved ones.

  • Use video chat technology to hold a storytelling party. Select a theme or question, and each person gets five minutes to tell a story that relates to that theme.
  • Interview a relative—record the call or take notes and write up the story they tell you.
  • Keep a journal of stories to share with friends or family when you can get together again.
  • Write a letter to a friend or relative and tell them what you love about them.
  • Post a memory on Facebook and include a photo, if possible. Respond to the comments.
  • If you are an older American, talk to your grandchildren about your favorite activities as a child. Did love riding a bike, playing sports, reading?
  • Read a favorite book, poem, or passage to a loved one by video chat or phone.

A Word About COVID-19 and Seniors

While the coronavirus (COVID-19) is still prevalent, it’s very important to keep a watchful eye on our older loved ones. According to the CDC, those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are people aged 65 years and older.

People with these symptoms or combinations of symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, and at least two of these symptoms:
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

The CDC advises that anyone with any of these emergency warning signs for COVID-19 should get medical attention immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

This list is not all possible symptoms. Please keep in mind that seniors can be susceptible to other serious health conditions, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), that may cause symptoms (fever, lethargy, lower appetite) that mimic those of COVID-19.

Kadan caregivers are experienced in knowing how to care for the needs of older Americans. To learn more about how we might help you or a loved one, please call us at 770-396-8997.