May is Older Americans Month (OAM). In tough times, communities find strength in people—and people find strength in their communities. In the past year, we have seen this repeatedly throughout North Central West Virginia as friends, neighbors, and businesses have found new ways to support each other.
“Older individuals bring wisdom and insight to our communities,” said James E. Malone, DO, at Bridgeport Family Healthcare. “They continually give back by volunteering to help others. Their resolve is our motivation to continually move forward.”
In our region, older adults are a key source of strength. Through their experiences, successes, and difficulties, they have built resilience that helps them to face new challenges. When communities tap into this, they become stronger too.
“Our areas’ rich history has been greatly influenced and shaped by our older population,” said Dr. Malone. “All of us owe them a debt of gratitude.”
Each May, the Administration for Community Living leads the celebration of Older Americans Month OAM. This year’s theme is Communities of Strength, recognizing the important role older adults play in fostering the connection and engagement that build strong, resilient communities.
Strength is built and shown by not only bold acts, but also small ones of day-to-day life—a conversation shared with a friend, working in the garden, trying a new recipe, or taking time for a cup of tea on a busy day. When we share these activities with others—even virtually or by telling about the experience later—we help them build resilience too.
“I invite you to celebrate OAM by encouraging community members to share their experiences,” said Dr. Malone. “Together, we can find strength—and create a stronger future.”
The following are some ways to share and connect.
- Look for joy in the everyday: Celebrate small moments and ordinary pleasures by taking time to recognize these. Start a gratitude journal and share it with others via social media, or call a friend or family member to share a happy moment or to say thank you.
- Reach out to neighbors: Even if you cannot get together in person right now, you can still connect with your neighbors. Leave a small gift on their doorstep, offer to help with outdoor chores, or deliver a home cooked meal.
- Build new skills: Learning something new allows us to practice overcoming challenges. Take an art course online or try a socially distanced outdoor movement class to enjoy learning with others in your community. Find an opportunity to teach someone, even casually.
- Share your story: There is a reason storytelling is a time-honored activity. Hearing how others experience the world helps us grow. Interviewing family, friends, and neighbors can open up new conversations and strengthen our connections.
“When people of different ages, backgrounds, abilities, and talents share experiences—through action, story, or service—we help to build stronger communities in our region,” said Dr. Malone. “That is something to celebrate!”
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