Posted May 5, 2016
Older Americans Month: A Time to Celebrate
Each May, NASW joins organizations across the United States in celebrating Older Americans Month (OAM). Begun in 1963 and currently led by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), the observance acknowledges older adults’ contributions to society and raises awareness about issues facing older adults. The theme for OAM 2016 is Blaze a Trail. This theme emphasizes the ways in which older adults reinvent themselves through new activities, engage their communities, and make a positive impact on people of all ages. Such contributions may take the form of civic engagement, lifelong learning, creative expression, family caregiving, and employment, among others.
ACL suggests multiple ways communities can celebrate OAM 2016:
- Secure a municipal or state proclamation commemorating OAM.
- Hold a trailblazer story competition to elicit stories of how older adults are blazing trails in local communities.
- Host an indoor or outdoor trail walk staffed by volunteers who staffed by people who can talk about OAM-related themes, such as civic engagement, financial security, wellness, and reinvention. Use ACL’s tip sheets to highlight awareness of these themes.
- Plan a “give-back” volunteer activity or group with older adults. Better yet, make it intergenerational.
ACL also provides event planning tips, sample articles and proclamations, and other OAM 2016 resources to support these activities. NASW welcomes feedback about how you are celebrating OAM 2016 in your own community.
Older Americans Month: A Time to Advocate
Last year’s OAM theme, Get into the Act, honored the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act (OAA). NASW and other advocates used the opportunity to mobilize support for reauthorization of the OAA, which had expired in 2011. This mobilization continued throughout the year and into April 2016, when the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2016 passed Congress and was signed into law (P.L. 114-144) by President Obama. NASW celebrates the passage of this bipartisan legislation, which reauthorizes OAA services through 2019. At the same time, funding remains inadequate to realize fully the mission of the OAA. OAA services enable older adults to live with dignity, health, and independence, thereby strengthening entire communities.
The broad scope of the OAA reflects the four themes of the 2015 White House Conference on Aging: elder justice, healthy aging, long-term services and supports, and retirement security. Gerontological social workers play integral roles in each of these domains. As such, the profession is well positioned both to highlight older adults’ contributions and to advocate for OAA funding and for other programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, which are essential to the well-being of older adults and communities. The Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2015 (S. 2173/H.R. 3712) includes multiple provisions to enhance Medicare beneficiaries’ access to mental health services provided by clinical social workers. Learn more about this important legislation and take action today.
OAM-Related NASW Resources
OAA issue brief (revised 2016)
Improving Access to Mental Health Act: issue briefs, frequently asked questions, and action alert
Legal Defense Fund Legal Issue of the Month: Elder Abuse (2015)
Advanced practice specialty credentials in gerontological social work and other specialties
Hartford–NASW Supervisory Leaders in Aging initiative: available in Florida, Illinois, Maryland, and New York City
NASW Press books: titles include Caregiving and Care Sharing: A Life Course Perspective (2014), Empowering Social Workers for Practice with Vulnerable Older Adults (2010), and Incorporating Intersectionality in Social Work Practice, Research, Policy, and Education (2009); e-books of selected titles available
Media Toolkit on Aging (2015)
Find a Social Worker: online databases
Consumer-friendly information about aging on Help Starts Here™
OAM-Related NASW Partnerships
Joint Commission Professional and Technical Advisory Committees for Behavioral Health, Home Care, and Nursing Care Center accreditation programs
Other OAM-Related Resources
Chris Herman, MSW, LICSW
NASW Senior Practice Associate