Senior Issues

demicheleThis new column comes from Joanne DeMichele, who says of herself:"My most recent career was as a natural health practitioner and myofascial bodyworker. I have had a career in estate and financial planning, taxes, and have taught Reevaluation Counselling and Emotional Freedom Techniques. I have done Victim-Offender Mediation, a restorative justice program designed to resolve conflict and keep youth out of the prison system by giving them the opportunity to resolve their conflicts face to face.

Seniors have been a major part of my life and careers. My interest in senior issues began 40 years ago. As an estate planning paralegal and financial planner, I had many opportunities to help widows and widowers through the paperwork and other new challenges facing them. As a natural health practitioner, I worked with adults and seniors interested in healthy aging.

Most seniors know what it is like to have a love affair with a vehicle. Growing up in the 40s, 50s, and 60s meant having a passion and even a romance with a car. An automobile was more than transportation. It was a part of the culture that included drive-in restaurants (carhops and roller skates, not a drive-through), drive-in movies (back seat romance), hotrods, muscle cars, convertibles, and unique love songs (“Little Deuce Coupe,” “409,” “Mustang Sally,” and “G.T.O.”). For these now older adults, having a car and driving is still a lifeline, a road to freedom and independence and opportunities.

Studies show that giving up driving increases a person’s mortality risk and makes seniors more prone to suffer from depression and land in nursing homes. According to a February 2016 article in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, “there is mounting evidence that driving cessation in older adults may contribute to a variety of health problems.” The unfortunate truth is that most individuals outlive their safe driving life expectancy by seven to ten years.

September is National Senior Center Month. It is a time to celebrate the essential programs, activities, services, and benefits offered to aging individuals, their caregivers, and communities. It is also a time to safeguard these programs and envision future possibilities.

Senior centers were created in 1965 as part of the Older Americans Act (OAA) to allow seniors to remain independent and engaged citizens. Although the primary focus of the OAA is to help low-income individuals and people living in rural areas, centers are open to everyone 60 and older. As with all communities, senior centers are strongest with cultural, social, and economic diversity.

Seniors make up 16.5% of New Mexico’s population (12.9% is the national average) and 26.1% of Grant County’s. According to the US Census Bureau, by 2030, New Mexico will have the 4th largest percentage of people 65 and older (up from 39th in 2000).