In 1963 President Kennedy declared May to be “Senior Citizens Month,” since then communities across the United States have been celebrating our older generations. In 1980 President Carter renamed the celebration, “Older Americans Month,” the name and tradition has grown every year since.
With age comes knowledge; older generations bring with them the wisdom, experience, and understanding of a different world that emerging generations today can only learn about through stories and textbooks. The insight of our elders helps to shape the people we become as we mature and grow older; studies have shown that young people who have significant relationships with elders credit that person for helping to positively shape their values and life choices. Young people also report that maintaining a bond with an elder relative helps to give them a sense of identity because they understand who and where they came from as well as the obstacles past generations had to overcome in order for future generations to be where they are today.
Each May, the aging population is recognized for their contributions, achievements and sacrifices that have benefitted American society in the past and have helped shape what it is today. This year’s theme of Older Americans Month is, ‘Never Too Old to Play,’ and is intended to encourage the aging generations to stay active. The theme is right on track with current trends in the United States that show elder generations increasing their activity levels within their local communities; people over age 60 account for an ever-growing percentage of volunteers in community service positions, faith-based organizations, online social networking as well as arts and recreational groups. This year the younger generations are asked to increase the involvement levels of elders in community events by hosting fun and intellectual activities at local community centers and parks.
Participation in creative, intellectual, social and physical activities have proven effective in countless studies for defending against the progression of aging. Staying active has a number of health benefits as we age, including; maintaining muscle mass, mobility, cognitive abilities and memory. The Administration on Aging census reports state that there are approximately 40 million senior adults over the age of 65 living in the United States currently, this accounts for 13% of the population. It is important to keep the tradition going of honoring and supporting the older generations, as it is expected to grow to 72 million persons by the year 2030.
To learn more about Older Americans month, events in your area or scheduling an event; please visit the official website: http://www.olderamericansmonth.aoa.gov/
Nutrition is a powerful tool that can help to slow the body’s aging process and defend against age-related health concerns. As you age there are natural changes that occur within your body that can decrease your overall health:
- Metabolism slows down; our body does not burn as many calories, meaning you should eat less to continue to maintain a healthy weight.
- Your digestive system changes; he body produces less digestive fluids needed to process food in the system making it harder to absorb important nutrients.
- Weakening of taste senses including those for salty and bitter; causing individuals to add salt to foods.
- Your appetite may change is you are taking medications for certain medical conditions; can cause stomach upset and lead to poor nutrition.
What can you do to combat these natural changes?
- Eat less to balance changes in metabolism and digestion.
- Choose foods that are rich in vitamins, nutrients, whole grains and healthy fats to compensate for eating less.
- Increase your daily consumption of water and non-caffeinated beverages to stay hydrated.
- Include high fiber foods in your diet to maintain healthy elimination and weight and reduce the risk for heart problems.
- Increase your lean protein intake to maintain muscle mass that can aid in metabolism.
- Take nutritional supplements; Calcium, Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 are specifically recommended for seniors to protect the health of the bones and maintain cellular health.
Visit Everyday Health for more great tips to maintain a healthy and balanced diet as you age: http://www.everydayhealth.com/senior-health/understanding/diet-and-aging-gaining-a-nutritional-edge.aspx
Family members of elderly persons must remember that loneliness and depression can affect your diet as well. Newly widowed or divorced seniors may require help meeting their nutritional needs. For some, emotional problems can trigger a lack of or surge in appetite that can lead to poor nutrition. Still others may not know how to cook or can no longer afford healthy foods on their newly limited budget. Be aware of clues and be there to help, one day it could be you!
When proper nutrition cannot be achieved through diet, a multivitamin is recommended to fill the gap.