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Because so many older people have aged in a healthy way, they remain able bodied and are more than willing to lend their energy and experience to providing better and more effective services. This will create not only a vital resource for older people who are in need of protective services. It will also create an opportunity for aging people to become involved in the health and well-being of their community. This is a vital aspect of aging effectively, since feeling useful is one of the ways in which older people can continue to live happy and healthy lives. Concomitantly, feeling positive and happy about life and providing services has the mutual effect of creating more effective services for older people. Eustis uses the term "civic engagement" to promote this idea. Specifically, she mentions the example of the ALVA Leadership Development program that is actively involved in helping older and experienced people to use their skills for the continued well-being of their community. Some of the results have been significant. Mary Ellen Kennedy, for example, is a 71-year-old retired teacher who is able to use her experience to help children of incarcerated parents to overcome the unique challenges and emotions they face as a result of their parents' situation. In this way, people over 55 years who are retired but still able bodied, with vast experience to contribute, are able to continue helping their communities. While many of them are indeed involved in providing protective services to older people, others are involved in assisting people of all ages. Helping older people to remain part of their communities is a vital part of the Older American Act.
This is not to say, however, that older people are not often in fact vulnerable and subject to mistreatment. While many are still able bodied and involve themselves in programs to help others, a great many are also in need of supportive services to help them live up to the end of their lives with dignity, self-respect, and happiness. Niles-Yokum and Wagner (2011, p. 166), for example, cite an example of a community-based survey performed to determine the severity of elder abuse. It was found that almost half of women over 55 have experienced abuse, with many experiencing repeated abuse. Furthermore, health problems were correlated with this experience. It is therefore not only a social concern, but also a health and mental concern. It is therefore vital that this, along with other frailty and vulnerability issues that affect older people, be studied carefully to determine ways in which the effects of these can be mitigated.
Ideally, Niles-Yokum and Wagner (2011, p. 193) suggest that the total person should be considered when establishing services for vulnerable older people. This would require a multidisciplinary approach in terms of policy, programs, and practice. While there are already many such programs and policies in place, it is also true that there is some way to go towards the ideal solution for many of the challenges older people face today. Nevertheless, it is encouraging that an increasing amount of websites and other publications exist to help older people manage their lives better, while also being involved in improving the lives around them, whether of other older people or of their community in general.
In the future, older people should be recognized not only as an integral part of society and revered as such. They should also be recognized as a potential source of community potential and power. Furthermore, many older people can inject meaning into their lives after retirement by becoming aware of and involved in the many challenges faced by their peers and others. By providing assistance services for vulnerable older people, the government ensures the long-term health to a potential community asset. When older people age in a happy and healthy way, they are able to shoulder much of the burden otherwise taken by government officials and community workers. They are an asset to their community.
EPA. (2012). Aging Initiative. Retrieved from: http://www.epa.gov/aging/
Eustis, N. (2010, Aug. 31). Thoughts on the Older American Act. Vital Aging Network. Retrieved from: http://vital-aging-network.org/Story/55/thoughts_on_the_older_american_act.html
National Council on Aging (2012). Public Policy and Action. Retrieved from: http://www.ncoa.org/public-policy-action/
Niles-Yokum, K. And Wagner, D.L. (2011). The Aging Networks.…[continue]
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