Havre, Montana – Northern Montana Health Care will be celebrating “Older Americans Month” this May. First established in 1963, it was originally called Senior Citizen’s Month. In that year, only 17 million Americans had reached their 65th birthdays. About a third of these older Americans lived in poverty and there were very few programs in place to meet their needs. President John F. Kennedy met with the National Council of Senior Citizens and as a result of this meeting, May was assigned the designation of “Senior Citizen’s Month”. It was recognized that this subset of Americans was growing steadily and many programs were developed because of this.
In 1980 President Jimmy Carter changed the name to “Older Americans Month” and in the years since it has become a time to acknowledge the contributions of past and current older persons to our country. In 2012, over 43.1 million Americans were aged 65 and older. This month has also become a time to provide this segment of our population with information to help them stay safe and healthy. The theme for the 2014 celebration of Older American’s Month is “Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow.”
“Older Americans are at a much higher risk of injury than the rest of the population.” states Dr. Terence Hankins, Internal Medicine provider at Northern Montana Medical Group West. “With a focus on safety during Older Americans Month, we can raise awareness about the consequences of unintentional injuries and the impact on this group. Hopefully, families can use this time to discuss safeguarding a loved one’s environment as they age. By taking a proactive stance on their safety, older Americans can live longer, healthier lives.”
Some of the areas that can be discussed include staying physically active to improve endurance, strength, balance and coordination. Having vision checked regularly also plays a role in preventing injuries. Managing medications; be it their interactions with each other or their side effects, is a very important item to consider. This may be something that family members will need to assist with; but should not be overlooked.
“As our population grows older, we need to be aware of the aspects of health care that relate to an older American. This is a wonderful way to show our love to our family members. And to celebrate Older Americans Month.” adds Dr. Hankins.