May is Older Americans Month, a perfect opportunity to show our appreciation for the older adults in our community. Since 1963, communities across the nation have joined in the annual commemoration of Older Americans Month - a proud tradition that shows our nation's commitment to celebrating the contributions and achievements of older Americans.
This year's theme - Never Too Old to Play! - puts a spotlight on the important role older adults play in sharing their experience, wisdom and understanding, and passing on that knowledge to other generations in a variety of significant ways. This year's celebrations will recognize the value that older adults continue to bring to our communities through spirited participation in social and faith groups, service organizations, and other activities. As large numbers of baby-boomers reach retirement age, many communities have increased their efforts to provide meaningful volunteer and employment opportunities for older adults - many of whom remain physically and socially active through their 80s and beyond. Current trends show that people over age 60 account for an ever-growing percentage of participants in community service positions, faith-based organizations, online social networking as well as arts and recreational groups.
Lifelong participation in social, creative, and physical activities has proven health benefits, including retaining mobility, muscle mass, and cognitive abilities. But older adults are not the only ones who benefit from their engagement in community life. Studies show their interactions with family, friends, and neighbors across generations enrich the lives of everyone involved. Young people who have significant relationships with a grandparent or elder report that these relationships helped shape their values, goals, and life choices and gave them a sense of identity and roots.
Chautauqua County Office for the Aging works with the RSVP program and many local churches/agencies to engage people of any age in volunteerism to serve the frail seniors of our community. On May 18, OFA and RSVP staff sponsored a summit on volunteer opportunities at the Fredonia Mason Lodge. Clubs, churches and individuals interested in volunteer opportunities joined us for lunch, brainstorming and some fun. Volunteer needs range from helping in the senior services office with program and event planning and coordination to direct contact with seniors in friendly visiting, medical transportation, nutrition programs, etc. Seniors around the county rely on volunteers on a regular basis, as with the ombudsman program and those who are "on call" for special occasions, such as Chautauqua's Hurlbut Church, which assists with the Christmas Baskets for Solitary Seniors project. There are many ways we can pool our efforts and make a big difference in the lives of our neighbors. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Jennifer Ellman, caregiver support coordinator at 753-4781 or 363-4781.
Older Americans Month is also a great opportunity to celebrate and have fun with our most beloved citizens. This year, the United Senior Council, assisted by OFA, sponsored a Senior Trivia Day on May 10 at the North Harmony Senior Center in Stow. Teams from North Harmony, Harmony, Panama, Lakewood, Fredonia and Frewsburg registered for this inaugural event. Remember what Kalil Gibran said, "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." Stay well!