The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


May 8, 2014

May we all honor seniors

Older Americans Month important to region

JOHNSTOWN — May is a wonderful month around these parts. The weather starts to get better – usually – and moods begin to brighten along with the days. The sun shines longer and the school year is getting shorter. it’s an optimistic time of year.

It’s also when we shine the light on those who have given so much to our country. Since 1963, we’ve been celebrating senior citizens with what is now known as Older Americans Month. When President John F. Kennedy designated May as Senior Citizens Month more than half a century ago, only 17 million Americans were 65 or older. In 2012, that number had more than doubled – to 43.1 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau – and it is expected to double again by 2060.

While its great that Americans are living longer – and often being more productive in their golden years – there are a number of issues that we all must be aware of when it comes to our seniors. That’s why this year’s theme for Older Americans Month is “Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow.” The theme, according to the Administration for Community Living, “focuses on injury prevention and safety to encourage older adults to protect themselves and remain active and independent for as long as possible.”

As we recognize the countless contributions made by older Americans this month, we also must work to protect them. And it’s not just physical issues that seniors face these days, as evidenced by the Department of Aging’s seminar late last month at the Senior Activities Center in downtown Johnstown. M. Veil Griffith, the director of the Cambria County Area Agency on Aging, talked to reporter Justin Dennis about the goal of the seminar.

“The whole purpose is really to let the seniors know about the scams, the financial exploitation, the things they need to watch out for and what they can do, who they can tell,” she said.

Denise Getgen of the consumer protection division of the state’s aging department told Dennis that seniors face some troubling issues.

“We’re an aging state, so there’s a lot of self-neglect,” she said. “For instance, two older adults have been married for a long time (and) they can’t take care of themselves anymore or each other. So the No. 1 is the neglect – self-neglect and caregiver neglect, where people don’t get the care and services that they need and deserve.

“Next is financial exploitation,” she said, adding that it’s quickly becoming the most concerning elder injustice. “It really becomes a public health problem because if I steal all your money and you need something like longterm care in a facility – the taxpayer’s paying for that.”

We urge our older readers to be vigilant in protecting themselves from scams. Be careful who you trust with your money and your personal information.

And we should all keep an eye out for the best interests of the older Americans around us. Whether it is a family member, neighbor or friend, let’s remember how much seniors have done for our community, state and nation and lend a helping hand whenever possible.

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