Older Americans Month 2016: Blaze a Trail

May 11, 2016

ACL Leaderboard Badge for OAM 2016

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 

Aging practice tools, resources, and announcements

OAA issue brief (revised 2016)

Improving Access to Mental Health Act: issue briefs, frequently asked questions, and action alert

NASW Standards for Social Work Practice with Family Caregivers of Older Adults (2010)

Standards and Indicators for Cultural Competence in Social Work Practice (revised 2015)

Legal Defense Fund Legal Issue of the MonthElder Abuse (2015)

Continuing education: June 2016 national conferenceother national CE programschapter-level programs

Aging Specialty Practice Section: benefits include upcoming webinars on sibling dynamics and caring for older parents (May 25) and assessment of older adults and families at the end of life (June 14)

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™

Flyer of NASW resources related to aging (2016)

OAM-Related NASW Partnerships

CARF International Advisory Council

Center for Excellence in Assisted Living

Coalition for Quality in Geriatric Surgery Project

Eldercare Workforce Alliance

Friends of the National Institute on Aging


Jimmo Implementation Council

Joint Commission Professional and Technical Advisory Committees for Behavioral Health, Home Care, and Nursing Care Center accreditation programs

Leadership Council of Aging Organizations

National Coalition on Mental Health and Aging

Other OAM-Related Resources

OAM 2016 Presidential Proclamation

Benefits CheckUp®

Eldercare Locator

National Resource Center on LGBT Aging

NIH Health and Aging; NIH SeniorHealth

U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging


Chris Herman, MSW, LICSW

NASW Senior Practice Associate

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