Older Americans Month is a month to celebrate the older Americans in our country and honor the lives they’ve lived and the accomplishments they still have ahead of them. It was established in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy to bring awareness to the types of programs and support older Americans need to succeed. Believe it or not, at that time there were only 17 million living Americans that had reached their 65th birthday!1 Today there are 54.1 million.2 This goes to show the importance of recognizing and supporting our older population and why programs like this are vital.
Every year, the Administration of Community Living sets a theme for Older Americans Month. This year’s theme is “Age My Way,” which is an “opportunity for all of us to explore the many ways older adults can remain in and be involved with their communities.”3 Community support, participation, and accessibility is important for people of all ages, but especially for our older Americans.
If you identify as an older American, we have some tips to help you take care of your mind, body, and finances.
Say “Yes” to Fiber and “No” to Salt
As we age, our bodies need more fiber to stay regular. You can find fiber in a number of healthy foods such as beets, Brussel sprouts, lentils, kidney beans, oatmeal, almonds, chia seeds, and even dark chocolate. Adding these fiber-rich foods to your diet can help you add variety to your palate and get all the nutrients you need as you age.4
In addition to increasing fiber, you should consider decreasing your sodium intake. As we age, we become more sensitive to salt, which can have a negative impact on blood pressure. It’s more important than ever to make sure blood pressure stays within a healthy range.4
Physical activity is important for people of all ages, but it’s especially important for older Americans. Regular physical activity may help prevent health problems such as osteoporosis, arthritis, depression, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.5 If you don’t have complete mobility, you may still want to add some gentle physical activity into your routine. Even a walk around the block or a short bike ride can help you stay healthy. Before starting any exercise regimen, it’s important to talk with your doctor to learn which options are right for your health and activity level.5
Grow Your Community
Socialization is an important way to keep your mind sharp as you age, but making new friends can seem daunting. There are so many ways to grow your community, from volunteering at a local animal shelter to picking up a new hobby. If you have a passion, it’s likely that someone else shares that passion, too.
Build a Budget
Most older Americans live on a fixed income that’s supplemented by retirement savings, Social Security, pensions, or other streams of income. Because of that, it’s important to have a strict budget and stick to it. If you’ve noticed that your budget is slipping out of control, take this month to reevaluate your expenses and get the lay of the land. Thanks to technology, budgeting apps can help you stay on track.
Refresh Your Estate Plan
As you age and life continues to change, it’s a good idea to meet with your financial advisor or attorney to make sure your estate plan is up to date. No one wants to think about what happens after we’re gone, but it’s important to have these conversations when you can. Now’s a great time to have those conversations with your family members to make sure everyone knows what your wishes are.
Finally, wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and rubber boots, and be cautious when cleaning up. Throw out items that have absorbed water and can’t be cleaned or disinfected, including mattresses, carpeting, and stuffed animals.2