May is Older Americans Month

Published 7:26 am Saturday, May 29, 2021

By Gail E. Sonnesso, MS, GEM Adult Day Services, Inc.

Every May, the Administration for Community Living leads our nation’s observance of Older Americans Month. The theme for 2021 is “Communities of Strength.” Older adults have built resilience and strength over their lives through successes, failures, joys and difficulties.

But their ability to thrive as they age is impacted by Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

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The Alzheimers Association (ALZ.org) states: “The number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s is growing — and growing fast. More than 6 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s.”

  • An estimated 6.2 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2021.
  • Seventy-two percent are age 75 or older.
  • One in nine people age 65 and older (11.3%) has Alzheimer’s dementia.
  • About one in three caregivers (30%) is age 65 or older
  • Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.
  • Most caregivers (66%) live with the person with dementia in the community.
  • Approximately one-quarter of dementia caregivers are “sandwich generation” caregivers — meaning that they care not only for an aging parent, but also for children under age 18.

As the number of older Americans grows rapidly, so too will the number of new and existing cases of Alzheimer’s. By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s dementia may grow to a projected 12.7 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent, slow or cure Alzheimer’s disease.

GEM (Gentle Expert Memorycare) is a community-based non-profit, working for families and individuals living with dementia on the Outer Banks since 1998. Dare County can become a “Community of Strength” for our older citizens, especially those experiencing dementia and those caring for them.  One way to build a community of strength is to become a “Dementia Inclusive Outer Banks.” GEM works towards this goal in four major ways:

  1. GEM delivers therapeutic and educational programs for family care partners, nurse aides, individuals living with dementia, Dare County programs and the faith and business communities.
  2. GEM promotes social programs that support both the care partner and the person living with dementia. One program is GEMz where we meet weekly via Zoom to offer art classes, exercise, Bingo and music. We hope with the Covid restrictions lifting we can offer our programs in-person at the Dare County Center and the Baum Center.
  3. GEM distributes information and education about the “next steps” for families. GEM provides connections to services and supports and educational programs as we help you build your care team.
  4. GEM engages constantly in advocacy for seniors and especially for individuals living with dementia.

Did you know that GEM welcomes volunteers to provide support for our participants and caregivers? We are working with Sallie Sawyer, nurse consultant, Carolinas GWEP (Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program) East Carolina College of Nursing to provide a program in best practices in dementia care in June.

For information about volunteering, trainings or to make a donation, call Gail at 252-480-3354 or email her at gsonnesso@gmail.com to learn more.

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