September 29, 2011

USA: There are many ways for older people to remain active

LAFAYETTE, Louisiana / The Advertiser / ACCENT / September 29, 2011

What do old people do?

By Karen R. Rue

While visiting with my 14 year old nephew, Joe, who had flown in from Colorado for a summer visit, I asked him how his paternal grandfather was doing. He relayed his wellness and when the discussion turned to his current activities, he paused and said "I don't know, I guess he does what old people do. But what do old people do?" He continued by stating that when he got older he would be different. When I challenged him how could that be as he did not know what old people did, he became quiet.

Joe, unlike many other young people, has spent much of his youth around aging grandparents yet is still unaware of what their daily life entails. Youth are often separated by miles from aging relatives, have their lives entwined with too many activities, or are physically segregated from seniors. Many communities have youth buildings in their churches, parks designed specifically for youth sport activities; and recreational centers and health clubs with youth specific work out areas There are child care centers and senior centers. These all keep the generations separated and limits any healthy role modeling of the aging process.

Older Americans are an active part of all communities. According to the US Census Bureau it is estimated that 5 million seniors age 65 and older remain employed, many are currently enrolled in college, 79 percent vote and 81 percent own their own homes. The Corporation for National and Community Services released data in September 2011 stating that older Americans contributed more than 3 billion hours of community service between the years of 2008 and 2010 which annualizes at a $64 billion economic benefit. Some of these activities include tutoring at risk children, providing job training to veterans, supporting independent living, and responding to natural disasters.

Then there are just the normal activities of life: George Bush Sr. skydived at age 85; Bill Burke climbed Mt Everest at age 67; Florence Henderson competed on Dancing with the Stars at age 76; Geroge Brunstad swam the English Channel at age 70; Col. Harlan Sanders began KFC at age 65; and Betty White appeared in her first Super Bowl ad when she was age 88.

Much can be learned from time spent with our older Americans. They are societies' treasures. They have built our communities, taught us values and traditions and bring a lifetime of skill, experience, and problem solving to everything they do. So what do old people do? Just about anything you can imagine, take the time to watch and listen.

Karen R. Rue R.N. M.B.A, Griswold Special Care, 

Copyright © 2011
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