By Bridget Scarbrough, OTAC Instructor and Certified Personal Trainer & Functional Aging Specialist
The month of May is full holidays, appreciation weeks and observances. However, what many American citizens do not realize is that May is also National Older Adult Month.
In April of 1963, President Kennedy met with the National Council of Senior Citizens and declared the month of May to be Senior Citizen Month. This decision was done to show appreciation and gratitude to seniors for their sacrifices and their contributions to society. Two years later, President Johnson took it a step further and passed the Older Americans Act of 1965 and formally declared May as Older Americans Month. This act was done in an effort to bring awareness and policy change that would help provide much needed services to seniors.
Each year Older Americans Month is celebrated with a theme. The theme for 2021 is “Communities of Strength”. This last year has proven, in a multitude of ways, how important community, connection and interaction truly are. When those things are taken away from us we suffer both mentally and physically. Older Americans have been impacted by the loss of those three things more devastatingly than anyone. It is sad to think of how many lives were lost merely to isolation and lack of stimulation. It is heartbreaking.
As we begin this new year and start to see a light at the end of the tunnel with more widespread vaccinations and the lifting of restrictions, our older Americans will need encouragement and support to build up their confidence and get them moving again in every way.
One of the most significant things that can help improve our quality of life is activity. Staying or getting active is one of the best ways that we can age better. The best part is that it is never too late to start. One of the benefits to being active is that you can learn new skills which is fantastic for brain health. Being active will also assist with fall prevention, a fear that keeps many older adults from attempting exercise or activity. Ironically, studies have shown that less activity actually lends to greater likelihood of falls due to weaker muscles, less mobility, lower bone density and decreased balance.
Fauquier County offers so many great options to help our Baby Boomers and beyond to connect with one another, get resources, and to find better health. There are many different steps that older adults can take to stay healthy and productive. Obviously, proper nutrition is a vital aspect of aging well. However, it is also important to have friends and connections as well as a purpose. Hobbies, volunteering, pets, family, and work all give us purpose.
One recent development in our community was the closing of the wellness center at Fauquier Health and Rehab. Fortunately, Old Town Athletic Campus was able to open their doors to the wellness center members and welcome them to the OTAC family.
In 2019, OTAC launched a brand new program called Move It or Lose it with Baby Boomers in mind, but the class has found popularity with members of all ages. The Gentle Cardio and Strength classes have provided participants with the opportunity to work on balance, joint mobility, flexibility, coordination, and strength. Self-efficacy has soared and members have seen positive changes while having fun and creating their own inner circle within the OTAC community. With the addition of Chair Yoga, Gentle Strength & Stretch, and the optional dedicated senior hour, OTAC offers something for every ability and goal.
The theme of “Communities of Strength” can take on so many meanings. Strength when we all come together, strength in our resiliency, strength in our commitment to ourselves and each other, and also strength in our bodies and minds. Finding connection with one another and ensuring that those who are alone are given the opportunity to find their community as well.
May the 4th be with you, may you age with wellness and grace and help those around you do the same.