Older Americans Month: Embracing the Power of Connection

The Department of Social and Health Services’ Aging and Long-term Support Administration is celebrating this May, as Governor Jay Inslee has proclaimed it as Older Americans Month. OAM is an essential celebration that recognizes and honors the remarkable contributions of older Americans throughout our nation. It is more than just an occasion of recognition; it’s a call to action for communities, businesses and organizations to come together and support the well-being and happiness of older adults.

This year’s national theme, “Powered by Connection,” truly resonates with the current landscape of social and community interactions. The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community emphasizes the transformative impact that meaningful connections have on mental, physical and emotional well-being, especially as they age.

“If we take away nothing else from the Covid19 pandemic, we should understand the far-reaching negative impacts of social isolation on older people. For some, it was more deadly than the disease itself, so I am thrilled that this issue is receiving national attention,” said Cathy Kinnaman, ALTSA Home and Community Services Director.

At the heart of OAM is the recognition that connection goes beyond casual conversations. It’s about fostering environments where older adults can thrive, feel valued and contribute meaningfully to society. Here are some ways community-based partners can act and make a difference during Older Americans Month and beyond:

· Spread Awareness: Share information about the benefits of social connection within our professional and personal networks. Highlight the positive impact on mental health, physical well-being and emotional resilience, and inspire others to do the same.

· Engage on Social Media: Encourage our followers and community members to share their stories of connection using the hashtag #PoweredByConnection. Create a space where experiences can inspire and uplift others.

· Promote Engagement Opportunities: Showcase cultural activities, recreational programs and virtual events that facilitate meaningful interactions. Let’s ensure that older adults know about these opportunities to stay engaged and connected.

· Connect to Local Services: Partner with local counseling services and support organizations to help older adults overcome barriers to meaningful relationships. Provide resources and guidance on accessing these crucial support systems.

· Host Connection-Centric Events: Organize events where older adults can mentor others, fostering intergenerational connections and mutual learning experiences. Let’s empower them to share their wisdom and expertise with peers and younger generations.

Individuals also play a pivotal role in nurturing connections and building inclusive communities:

· Explore New Passions: Encourage older adults to discover new hobbies, join clubs or participate in community classes. Engaging in activities they enjoy can lead to new friendships and connections.

· Give Back through Volunteering: Emphasize the importance of giving back to the community through volunteering, mentoring, or teaching. These activities create connections and provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

· Invest in Relationships: Encourage individuals to invest time in building and strengthening relationships with family, friends, neighbors and colleagues. Meaningful connections enrich lives and contribute to overall well-being.

Washington state’s unwavering commitment to older Americans is evident in its efforts to support and empower this demographic:

· Washington is now part of AARP’s Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities and USAging’s Dementia-Friendly America network, collaborations that will to help identify and promote policies and initiatives that improve longevity, health and engagement.

· Our state is home to nearly 1.9 million Americans aged 60 and older, whose contributions have shaped the state’s progress and success.

· Washington’s long-term services and support systems promote dignity, independence and quality of life for older adults.

· Washington is actively working to address food insecurity, promote social connections through senior nutrition programs and combat biases against older adults, including those from diverse backgrounds.

· The state provides abundant opportunities for older adults to engage in activities, volunteer and access resources for caregiving and dementia care.

As we celebrate Older Americans Month, let’s unite to recognize older adults’ resilience, wisdom and contributions. Together, we can create a brighter and more supportive future for all generations by fostering meaningful connections and building inclusive communities.

For more information and resources, we invite you to visit the official OAM website and DSHS ALTSA Long-term Care Services Information webpage. Join the conversation using #OlderAmericansMonth in our DSHS social media platforms, and let’s celebrate the power of connection together.

--

--