Older Americans Month -- May 2014
Each May, the United States celebrates Older Americans Month to recognize older Americans for their contributions and provide them with information to help them stay healthy and active.
When Older Americans Month was established in 1963, only 17 million living Americans had reached their 65th birthdays. About a third of older Americans lived in poverty; few programs existed to meet their needs. In April of 1963, President John F. Kennedy's meeting with the National Council of Senior Citizens culminated in designating May as “Senior Citizens Month,” which in 1980 was renamed by President Carter as “Older Americans Month.”
In 2014, the focus of Older Americans Months is on injury prevention with the theme Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow.
Older adults are at a much higher risk of unintentional injury and even death than the rest of the population. Unintentional injuries to this population result in at least 6 million medically treated injuries and more than 30,000 deaths every year.
With a focus on safety during Older Americans Month, the U.S. Administration for Community Living is offering some safety tips to older adults in order to raise awareness of this issue.
1. Talk to your healthcare provider.
Discuss physical activities that are appropriate for you. Have your vision checked regularly. If you are on Medicare – and most older Americans are – Medicare pays for an Annual Wellness Visit.
If you have had Medicare Part B for longer than 12 months, you can get this visit to develop or update a personalized prevention help plan to prevent disease and disability based on your current health and risk factors. Your healthcare provider will ask you to fill out a questionnaire, called a “Health Risk Assessment,” as part of this visit. Answering these questions can help you and your provider develop a personalized prevention plan to help you stay healthy and get the most out of your visit.
2. Manage your medications.
Drug therapy problems occur everyday. The Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative reports that drug-related morbidity and mortality costs exceed $200 billion annually – more than the costs of the drugs themselves. Medicare beneficiaries with multiple chronic illnesses see an average of 13 physicians and have 50 different prescriptions filled annually.
U.S. Administration for Community Living recommends that seniors educate themselves on how medications interact and affect their ability to walk or operate a motor vehicle. People should use a scheduler box. Pharmacists can give tips on how to set up a box and the proper use of prescription drugs.
3. Prevent falls.
Handrails, grab bars, lighting, footwear, walking aids, flooring all affect the risk of falls, injuries from falls.
For eligible veterans, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Home and Community Based Services programs provide health care services and assistance with activities of daily living in their homes.
One of the goals of the VA’s Home Based Primary Care program is “assist in the transition from a health care facility to the home by providing patient and caregiver education, guiding rehabilitation and use of adaptive equipment in the home, adapting the home as needed for a safe and therapeutic environment, and arranging and coordinating supportive services, including home telehealth, as appropriate.”
4. Drive wisely.
The U.S. Administration for Community Living recommends that older Americans plan their routes before driving, eliminate distractions inside the vehicle, and know when they need to limit or stop driving.
Every President since JFK has issued a formal proclamation during or before the month of May asking that the entire nation pay tribute in some way to older persons in their communities. Older Americans Month is celebrated across the country through ceremonies, events, fairs, and other such activities.