Older Americans Month: Communities of Strength

In tough times (and have there been any tougher times than the past year?), communities find strength in people—and people find strength in their communities. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen this time and again at the Friendly Home, as our staff, Members and families have come together and found new ways to support each other.

At the Friendly Home, older adults are a key source of our 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.

COVID changed virtually everything in our Members’ lives – they were not able to see or hug their loved ones, communal dining and activities with their friends were halted, and they were largely confined to their rooms. Yet as I conducted my daily rounds, I often heard comments from our Members like “The staff is working so hard; we appreciate all that they are doing” and “I feel worse for my family than I do for myself.” Their resilience and care for others during what was surely one of the most challenging times of their lives, provides a valuable and lasting lesson for all of us.

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.

As we slowly return to a sense of a normalcy, our residents set examples of strength as they engage in the seemingly small but meaningful acts of day-to-day life—sharing a conversation with a friend, visiting with beloved family members, spending time outdoors enjoying the sunshine, hearing a favorite song, savoring a special meal. In these and in other countless ways, together, we can find and share strength—and create a stronger, brighter future.

To honor the lessons we’ve learned from our elders, here are a few ways to share and connect in our own lives:

  • Look for joy in the everyday: Celebrate small moments and ordinary pleasures by taking time to recognize them. Start a gratitude journal, or call a friend or family member to share a happy moment or to say thank you.
  • Reach out to 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. Have a skill to share? Find an opportunity to teach someone, even casually.
  • Share your story: There’s a reason storytelling is a time-honored activity. Hearing how others experience the world helps us grow. Interviewing older adults, 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 build strong communities. And that’s something to celebrate, this month and every month!

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