April 19, 2018

Older Americans Month: age out loud

By Janet Hunt

Special to the Observer

May is Older Americans Month — a time of reflection as much as it is a time of projection. When I have conversation with an older person, I hear beautiful life stories. We find that we have things in common. We are more alike than we are different, of course.

I met a gentleman who is 73 who talks in a lively way about aging. He continues to work full-time, to exercise and enjoy arts and music. When I look at him, 73 is not old.

I know a woman who just turned 70. She gardens, loves to shop for cool jewelry and would love to be in love again to a nice man. I still see her as if she were in her 40s. Aging is not about being old. It is about being and living, every day, the best way we can.

Sometimes that means recognizing and accepting that we may not be as independent as we’d like to be. We need to find it in ourselves to be OK with asking for help when we can’t understand how to apply for Medicare, or, compare prescription costs, or try to shop and cook nutritious meals for ourselves.

When I talk with people about their needs, they often say to me, “I don’t know what I’d do without the help from those staff.” referring to  their local Area Agency on Aging.

As the Executive Director for the Vermont Association of Area Agencies on Aging, the best part of my job is when I get out and meet people, young and old. The difference of ages becomes woven into a wonderful tapestry. I am especially inspired that young people are in the same line of work as I am. I hope they realize that I am learning from them as they, I hope, learn from me.

Aging is about a circle of relationships and supports and the Agencies on Aging are here for those who are getting older and for their families, to help complete those circles of support.

The national theme of Older Americans Month this year is “Age Out Loud.” At a recent event, I asked several older Vermonters what that means to them:

“Being together with friends.”

“Not take things for granted.”

“To be with family so we’re not so lonely.”

“Being empowered to say what is on your mind.”

Today, more than ever, people need to have a voice and to age out loud. Advocate for adequate health care. Send letters and make phone calls to political leaders. Write articles and share your stories with local news media. Be empowered no matter how old you are.

Answer the questions on our survey and share your stories at surveymonkey.com/r/AgeOutLoud

For details about events happening throughout the state celebrating Older Americans Month, visit vermont4a.org/age-out-loud.html.

Janet Hunt is the Executive Director of the Vt. Assoc. of Area Agencies on Aging.

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