Submitted by Mary Ann O’Garro, Epidemiologist, Thurston County Public Health and Social Services

In Thurston County, the average person is expected to live to be 81 years old. Of course, many people will live longer than that. If you have a special senior citizen in your life, whether they’re family, friend or neighbor, there are many ways you can support them and contribute to their well-being.

For example, don’t buy into the stereotypes. The way we view people effects how you treat them, and sometimes changes how they view themselves. Try to avoid sending the message that older people are boring, forgetful, unproductive, burdensome, or grouchy. Resist comments that suggest sickness and disability are to be expected with old age. People have a lot to offer, regardless of their age.

For some older people, it can be helpful to be helpful. There are many ways to help, but some key actions include:

  • Provide practical help. If you live nearby, give them the benefit of your time. Offer to do specific things. You don’t need to wait and be asked, but do listen to what they want or do not want. Practical help can look like running errands for them, going with them places they need to go, or doing chores.
  • Help them to navigate things. Some people appreciate help figuring things out, getting things organized or getting needed information. Navigating things can look like arranging to get a household repair done, identifying the options to get needed medical care, or how to apply for a certain job because they want to work.

Technology can offer a range of personal and practical benefits for seniors. Growing older does not mean you cannot change or learn new things. Seniors are often using technology, but like other generations, have a different level of experience with it. Technology can range from having an email account to being on social media. Being able to call someone is great, but email can be another way to keep in touch. Being on Skype, or some other type of social media, may help them to interact with distant family or friends. If they’re interested, help them make more use of technology. If it’s their first time with new technology, meet them where they are and start slow.

Finally, support changes in the community that help older adults. Adding sidewalks might help everyone who wants to take a walk, but adding curb cuts can be even better—to include people who need special equipment to get around. Income can get tighter after retirement, so supporting local programs that help older adults who have less to spend can make a real difference. When local agencies are planning for the future of Thurston County, we can all advocate for the needs of older residents by participating, and sharing our thoughts. Thurston County Public Health & Social Services works to support a thriving, hopeful, healthy community for everyone.

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