Every May, our nation celebrates Older Americans Month (OAM) to honor the many contributions of older adults. This year’s theme, “Age Out Loud,” shines a light on how older Americans are thriving, engaging in their communities, working longer, and trying new things.
What does ‘Age Out Loud’ mean, you might ask? According to the OAM website, its about giving aging a new voice to better reflect what older adults have to say about aging today.
It’s an opportunity to celebrate what aging really looks like, as “older Americans are working longer, trying new things, and engaging in their communities. They’re taking charge, striving for wellness, focusing on independence, and advocating for themselves and others.”
Here at Iona, we’re proud to celebrate Older Americans Month and highlight the many contributions of older adults in our community. Like Stella Clarke, better known as Starr, who ages out loud through dance. Or Gil Lavine, who found new passions after an unexpected retirement.
And, in fact, our participants age out loud every day: some are taking charge of their health and wellness, others are volunteering, fostering new passions, or creating connections. Courtney Tolbert, program manager of Iona’s Active Wellness Program at St. Alban’s, has a front row seat to aging out loud.
“Iona’s participants are ‘Aging Out Loud’ when they come to Iona, because in doing so, they’re taking an interest in their own lives and creating friendships and relationships,” she says. “They have put aside their fear of loss, and instead embraced the ability to still acquire, even though it’s different than what they were used to.
“That’s living out loud – to not overly value what you’ve lost, and have it in mind that you can still gain so much and have a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ for life. And when you think about it, that’s really what Iona is all about: recognizing and embracing all of the opportunities of aging despite the many challenges.”
To celebrate Older Americans Month, we asked participants and other friends of Iona what aging out loud means to them. Here’s what they had to say:
I’m a retired surgeon, so it’s really important for me to continue to do activities that are useful to other human beings. Volunteering helps me while also helping the participants. They benefit by increased nutrition and health, and we both benefit from engaging socially.
I think it’s really good for all older adults to continue to provide useful services to other people, health permitting, even into old age. Keeping active is good for your brain, good for your heart, good for your whole life. Helping others keep healthy keeps me healthy – volunteering is an opportunity to get out there and engage in a meaningful way.
It’s so important to continue to do good and contribute to other people’s lives, no matter what age you are. A lot of older people don’t think they can continue to do good if they’re retired, but they can help themselves by getting out of the house and helping others. That’s how I age out loud.”
– Tom, Active Wellness Volunteer
To age out loud, I eat right, stay active, and take care of myself as best I can. Iona helps me do all of those things. I live alone, so Iona is a really good way to get around other people because I don’t think I would otherwise. I’ve made a lot of friends and they are what keeps me coming back everyday. Also, the daily lunches are a big plus – I’m not much of a cook and never have been, so it’s a good way to get a healthy meal.”
– Lisa, Active Wellness Participant
Iona allows me to ‘Age Out Loud’ by volunteering: meeting new people, socializing, and giving back to the community, which means a lot to me. Most of the participants are the same age as me, but it improves my day to day life to interact with my peers and help them at the same time.”
– Drew, Active Wellness Volunteer
I’m 66, and I have felt that at every gateway – turning 40, turning 50, turning 60 – I have felt younger than I anticipated feeling at that point in time. I am still quite active, I do a lot of traveling, and I continue to do some consulting, though I have been retired for a number of years.
I am finding that one of the nice things about getting to my stage of life is that it is very, very liberating. I think, if anything, it’s made me more willing to reach out and take risks. I think I am beyond a lot of the hangups and fears that I had as a younger person, and I feel that I have the ability to mentor and reach out to the extent that people are interested in what I have to share. ”
– John, Transitions in Aging Support Group Participant
Just a small story I’d like to share, which I always laugh when I think about it. About ten years ago, if somebody would get up on the Metro to give me a seat, I would be absolutely upset for three weeks afterward that they would think I needed that. But now, if nobody gets up to give me a seat, I get furious!
To me that’s a metaphor about aging – we don’t want to be thought of as old, but on the other hand, some of us would like to sit down when we get to a certain place in life.
The thing that I find to enjoy about this age is that I want to be out there doing things, and I’m not so worried about playing to perfection anymore. I think I’m a lot more courageous about what I risk doing or saying, like the story I just shared.”
– Susan, Transitions in Aging Support Group Participant and Volunteer Co-Facilitator
“I have always been active all my life, so I find as I’m getting older that a lot of my independence is dissipating. I love music, I love plays, and when I have a chance I get out to attend these things. I have an open mind, and I’ve been fortunate enough to do a lot of traveling.
I find coming to Iona to be very engaging, and I look forward to being here because of who I encounter and the conversation going back and forth. I like getting out, I like talking with people, and this is just another avenue for me to be able to do so.”
– Lillian, Transitions in Aging Support Group Participant
Whether it’s by giving back to the community or simply being a part of it, it goes without saying that older adults are ‘Aging Out Loud’ everyday.
How do you Age Out Loud? Let us know in the comments!
By Ali Perry
Ali Perry is a Communications and Marketing Intern at Iona, and a former volunteer at our Active Wellness Program at St. Alban’s. She is a senior at The George Washington University studying Human Services and Social Justice, and intends to pursue a career in Nonprofit Management.