The Exchange

Commentary and Observations from
the Medical Front Lines

May Is Older Americans Month

May Is Older Americans Month

In the month of May, we celebrate Older Americans Month, led by the Administration for Community Living (ACL). To honor this month, on April 29, 2022, President Biden signed a proclamation stating: "During Older Americans Month, we honor our Nation's seniors and the tremendous impact they have made in helping build a more perfect Union. Older Americans contribute their time and wisdom to make our communities stronger, more informed, and better connected."

This year's theme is Age My Way. Your older adult patients (≥65 years) can share how they continue to live independently and are involved in their community by using #OlderAmericansMonth in their social media posts. Other ideas to share and celebrate this month are to feature an older patient and their story in your office, or to provide educational information about issues related to age and aging in your office. You can also see if your local schools or community organizations would like to host a "Senior Day," where older adults can speak to students; volunteer to read to young children at the library; help establish a community garden; or set up game nights, pickle ball tournaments, or music events at senior centers.

As an assignment in Geriatrics education at my workplace, we have a program called the Senior Mentor Program, where we pair 2 students with an independently living older person ("senior mentor") in the community. The students' overall learning objective is to learn about the biopsychosocial perspectives of aging by active listening and gathering a history. The teams visit their senior mentor 3 times during the semester; each visit is associated with a set of objectives. At the first visit we reinforce the importance of knowing a patient as a person first and how information on their background, education, work history, belief systems, values, and personal needs contribute to their medical needs. At subsequent visits, the students learn about their senior mentor's functional status (ie, basic activities of daily living, instrumental activities of daily living, and advanced activities of daily living), nutrition, and exercise habits, as well as how to assess their home environment, driving status, and emergency preparedness (ie, plans in case of hurricane). At the end of the semester, the students submit a reflection, present to their small group, and provide a reception to thank the mentors. Prior to COVID-19, every 3 months I also had paintings from the senior center placed in the hallways for students to observe what seniors were doing in our community.

Seniors can be great mentors outside of health education. If you know a senior, take a moment to ask them to tell you a story about themselves or what they are doing in the community. It will be a great experience for both you and them.

References

Filed under: Miscellaneous

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