Throughout their lives, people are engaged in activities and pursuing accomplishments. They study in school, work in jobs, raise children, and spend time with friends. Eventually, they face the challenges of aging. The physical changes that occur late in life can impact the ability of older people to get out and continue to be part of society.
Participating in stimulating activities and programs can help counter the effects of aging. Getting out of the house and engaging with others is crucial to the quality-of-life of older adults. Many people require the help of a transportation program to go places and be social. For others, regular exercise promotes self-sufficiency, allowing them the freedom to visit friends, family, and recreational centers.
“When you talk about an elderly person,” says Robert Greenwood, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs, National PACE Association, “a lot of times physical therapy and exercise are really important just to be able to maintain that person’s independence and ability to do things for themselves and in the community.”
Maintaining good physical health allows older adults to engage with others fully, whether they are simply playing games at a local senior center, volunteering for a charity, or participating in a youth outreach program.
Social interactions also support overall health. Being active socially increases mental and emotional well-being by giving older adults a means for contributing to society. “One of the most important things is giving people a sense of purpose in their lives,” said Robert.
Lacey Knowles, Caring Circles Program Director, Phoenix Area on Aging, said that older adults do a lot of outreach in the community. These people will often bring family members with them during volunteer activities, creating an intergenerational bond and learning opportunity. “They bring their grandchildren with them so that they see the value in that service and really get them interested in interacting with other generations,” said Lacy.
Older adults are becoming a more prominent part of our communities. As the baby boomer population ages, their ability to continue positively impacting society is getting noticed. “The older generation is growing so rapidly that they can’t be ignored,” says Melissa Elliott, Vice President of Programs and Services, Phoenix Area on Aging. “There is a large aging population, and they have a presence in our communities.”
The prominence of older adults is creating more programs which engage the younger generations. Social workers will often have youth engage with older people at senior centers. Students who are studying modern history can learn from people who lived during those historic times. Older adults are happy to share their experience and knowledge.
“From the seniors’ perspective, they love interacting with children,” said Melissa.
The older generations are teaching their communities, through actions and examples, that there is immense value in creating a society that engages each other, regardless of age. They demonstrate that all generations can be in the same spaces. Each person in society, older and younger, contributes to, and benefits from, interacting with each other.
“We’re going to have healthier communities if we all work together across all ages in order to support one another.”