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Honoring older Americans

Alicia Colombo

In May, the nation honors Older Americans Month. Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA), which publishes Milestones newspaper, has made it its mission to honor and serve Philadelphia’s older adults every day since it was founded in 1973.

Philadelphia has the second highest proportion of older adults among all cities and metro areas in the country. There are more than 311,800 adults 60 or older living in the city. Older adults make up nearly 20% of Philadelphia’s entire population and more than 9% of Pennsylvania’s older adults.

It is fitting that the Administration for Community Living has given 2021’s Older Americans Month the theme of “Communities of Strength.” Philadelphia is a city of close-knit, diverse neighborhoods with a diverse older adult population to match. Here are some statistics about the makeup of Philadelphia’s older adult population:

  • Nearly 60% are women
  • Nearly 41% are Black, more than 8% are Hispanic/Latino, 6% are Asian and 2% are other races/mixed.
  • Nearly 26% are in the labor force
  • More than 15% are immigrants
  • More than 12% are veterans, who served in the U.S. military

Numbers, alone, do not tell the whole story. Older adults possess immense strength. This is proven to be true by the increased longevity of older adults, who are not just surviving longer but thriving as well.

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”
~ Sophia Loren, 86″

A study published in the European Journal of Aging identified sources of strength and resilience from the perspective of older adults who are receiving long-term care services
in the community. This research uncovered a variety of sources of strength for older adults:

  • Pride about one’s personality
  • Acceptance and openness about one’s vulnerability
  • Mastery by practicing skills
  • Acceptance of help and support
  • Balanced view on life
  • Empowering informal relationships
  • The power of giving
  • Anticipation of future losses
  • Not adapting to the role of a victim
  • Carpe-diem: A “seize the day” attitude

What is most interesting to me about this research is that older adults garnered strength through both the seemingly negative (i.e., losses and vulnerabilities) and positive (i.e., pride and acceptance) attributes of their lives.

Perhaps, when it comes to a person’s outlook on aging, the question shouldn’t be if the “glass” is half full or half empty. Instead, let’s ask ourselves to analyze our strengths and determine how we can use those resources to prepare us for whatever is to come in life.

Categories: Advocacy Milestones eNews


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