Spring is a time of growth, and continuing to grow is an essential part of healthy aging. But it takes a community effort to ensure there are opportunities for growth in older age. In Central Oregon, more than a quarter of the population is over the age of 65. So how do we support healthy aging and age together as a community?

As demographics shift and the number of older Americans continues to rise, the World Health Organization (WHO) advocates for “age-friendly” communities. These are places where infrastructure, policies, and practices are developed to make the community livable, accessible, and responsive to the needs of people of all ages, including older adults. It also requires a cultural shift, so that older adults are given opportunities to be socially connected, respected, and participating in civic life.

Here are some ways older adults can be part of an “age-friendly” community of connection and purpose:

Staying Connected

Staying connected means participating in social events, spending time with others and sharing life with a circle of friends and neighbors. For older adults, this might mean:

  • Visiting the local senior center for a community meal, book club, an exercise class, or a game of bridge
  • Feeling welcome at inter-generational events and centers
  • Having friends, neighbors, and community members who reach out to those at risk of isolation and loneliness
  • Having access to programs such as Meals on Wheels, which not only offers a nutritional lifeline to mobility challenged older adults, but also provides an important form of social connection

Finding Purpose

WHO states that “respect and social inclusion” and “civic participation” are essential to age-friendly communities, as they help ensure older adults feel purposeful and valuable to society. For older adults, being included in the civic conversation and able to contribute their unique skills leads to healthier, longer lives. This might include:

  • Taking a class to learn new skills
  • Becoming a volunteer for a local nonprofit organization
  • Attending civic events where the experience and insights of older adults can be shared and valued

To learn about local resources for social connection, educational opportunities, volunteering, and community events, call the Council on Aging of Central Oregon at (541) 678-5483 or visit www.councilonaging.org.

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