Leisa Easom: In celebration of older Americans and those who care for them

Published 1:37 pm Saturday, May 5, 2018

America is an aging nation, a trend that will continue for the foreseeable future. The oldest of the Baby Boomers (according to most common dates used) turned 65 in 2011, and the enormous cohort to follow will prompt a major demographic shift. The size of the Baby Boom generation, combined with longer lifespans, means that by 2030, 1 out of every 5 U.S. residents will be 65 or over.
But think again if you think that means we are in for a slump in — well, in just about anything. These days, age is rarely a hindrance, and often it opens more doors than it closes. Increasing numbers of older Americans are traveling, volunteering, creating art, and staying active. Innovative new businesses are sprouting up to serve this generation; outdated “old-age homes” are revisiting their values and procedures; and many “retirees” are staying on in their old jobs or finding second acts elsewhere. In fact, more than half of the U.S. senators up for reelection this year will be over the age of 65.
As the saying goes, “Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” In celebration of this sentiment, sometimes attributed to Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige, the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving commemorates Older American’s Month this May. Every May, the Administration on Aging, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living, leads the country in honoring older Americans. This year’s theme, Engage at Every Age, reminds us that we are never too old (or too young) to do something that can enrich our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Even as older Americans have more opportunities, the “graying” of our nation also leaves some in need of assistance. While we are living longer lives, many are living with chronic disease or any number of disabilities. The number of caregivers in the United States is also on the rise. The Rosalynn Carter Institute advocates for the 66 million Americans acting as caregivers to loved ones who cannot care for themselves.
We work tirelessly to provide recognition and support to family and professional caregivers — those who care for older Americans, and many who are older Americans themselves. This May, in honor of Older American’s Month, we celebrate those who are engaging, no matter their age. I hope you will join us.

Leisa R. Easom, Ph.D., RN, is the executive director of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving and Pope Eminent Scholar at Georgia Southwestern State University.