While every month of the year holds special significance in one way or another, May is especially important to us here at Noble Companion because May is national Older Americans Month! Older Americans month encourages people to think about the many ways older Americans give back to their communities and challenges us to look past stereotypes associated with the older community. More specifically, this years older Americans month centers its focus around the notion of “aging unbound,” which highlights the different experiences and paths people deal with during the aging process. Though these paths can be drastically different from person to person, the experiences they produce are all valuable in their own ways: So, reflect on your experience, how it has affected you, and how you can continue to thrive throughout the many years ahead!
- Take the challenge of change: Change is something that is inherently intimidating. Good or bad, change challenges us to think about our beliefs and routines while working to make room for new experiences as they arise. A large part of healthy aging involves how you deal with change, so pushing yourself to accept new challenges and experiences will yield positive results for your health down the line. The saying, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” is one that is often attributed to older people in a stereotypical manner and this negative stereotype can be severely damaging to life satisfaction if not continually challenged. So, this May, take the challenge of change to heart; get out and try new activities or explore new places, and embrace change as more of a gift and less of a challenge.
- Reap your rewards: Let’s face it, you’ve earned some rewards after a lifetime of hard work. While nontangible rewards like accomplishment, wisdom, and friendship make life worth living, there are countless little material rewards that your experience can reap you too! Programs like the ones offered by AARP offer a vast array of discounts and services that can help take the financial edge off the ever-increasing cost of living. To add to that, AARP can help you file your taxes for free each year, taking the stress out of dealing with the yearly chore and negating the nasty fees associated with other filing companies. On a more day-to-day level, there are dozens of eateries and chains that cut you a deal based on your seniority. Ask before the bill arrives at your favorite local mom and pop restaurant or follow a guide like this one to see which national eateries are serving up discounts that you could benefit from!
- Comingle with your community: When it comes to breaking stereotypical thinking, face to face interaction is among the most efficient methods. As a defacto representative for older Americans everywhere, your engagement in community events and activities is crucial towards the understanding of older adults all across the country. The more often older Americans get out, share their stories, and take part in community activities, the more the members of your community can understand them and break down the often-negative stereotypes that come with being an aged person. Vice Versa, older Americans could benefit from engagement with younger generations too, learning their stories, struggles, and hopes will result in a more cohesive community where respect is in abundance.
- Pursue a new relationship: Retirement comes with the privilege of free time, and many older Americans will at first use this free time to pursue lifelong hobbies that they’ve been unable to enjoy as much as they would’ve liked due to a lifetime of work. Though this newfound ability to explore your hobbies is a great reward at first, it can certainly become boring after years of relying on it to fill your time. If the same old hobbies and people are starting to tire you out, check out what your community has to offer in the way of social engagement. Places like senior centers, libraries, gyms, and clubs are likely to host different activities than what you’ve known your whole life. While some of these places may come with a small charge, many others are free to join! The new people you meet at places like these will afford you different points of view and life stories, and if you keep an open mind and try putting yourself out there, you might even be fortunate enough to build a new friendship that will stick around for the years to come. Novel social interactions are wonderful tools in the fight against the boring and mundane feelings that free time can create, so pursuing some can be a serious benefit for both you and the other person!
So, take some time this May to think about the older Americans in your life. Reach out to them via phone or email and see how they’re doing. Work to set up an activity with them if time allows, so that the lot of you can get out into the community. Finally, take time to ask them questions and learn their story a little bit better, as with age comes all the experience and wisdom of a lifetime, and that knowledge is one of the greatest gifts that older Americans can afford the rest of us.