Renée Markus Hodin, Director of Services for Older Adults, calls for challenging boundaries during Older Americans Month.
Governor Healey has proclaimed May 2023 as Older Americans Month (OAM) in Massachusetts. Despite this new recognition here in the Commonwealth, OAM is actually marking its 60th year in the United States! Established in 1963, and led by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), OAM is a time for us to acknowledge the contributions and achievements of older adults, highlight important trends, and strengthen our commitment to honoring our older citizens.
This year’s theme, Aging Unbound, offers an opportunity to explore a wide range of aging experiences and to promote the importance of enjoying independence and fulfillment by paving our own paths as we age.
Here at JF&CS, we know a little something about Aging Unbound. In our Services for Older Adults Division, we help older adults live healthy, independent and meaningful lives. We do this by offering compassionate services that include:
- A free helpline that fields questions and connects callers with resources and expert advice
- Arts-based programs and community-building for people with Parkinson’s Disease or Alzheimer’s/Related Dementias
- Aging life care managers that help older adults and families navigate an array of issues including health care systems, housing, home care services, and mental health needs
- Support groups for caregivers as well as those facing illness, loss, or isolation
- A Friendly Visitor Program that matches volunteers with isolated older adults
In March, I was fortunate to have joined the talented team that provides these and many other services day-in and day-out. After 25 years of working in health care advocacy and policy—many of which focused on improving the health care system for older adults with complex health care and social needs—I felt a tug to be more deeply engaged with older adults themselves.
And in my short time here, I’ve witnessed first-hand so many older adults living in ways that counter our society’s narratives about aging. I’ve danced beside a woman with Parkinson’s Disease whose tremors eased as she moved to the beat of the music. I’ve sung alongside a man with the same illness who composed a piece in honor of those affected by the Boston Marathon bombing. I’ve marveled at poetry shared aloud by the bereaved spouse of a person lost to Alzheimer’s disease.
Through these experiences, those who often feel bound by their or their partner’s illness feel a sense of release when participating in these programs. I feel honored to be amongst them and to be at an agency that supports older adults in stretching beyond the standard definition of aging and illness. Here’s to challenging boundaries during Older Americans Month and every day!