We are well into the very, merry Month of May, and many are busy celebrating proms and the milestone of graduation, while others are looking forward to family vacations and easing into summer with all its warmth and splendor. Despite its busyness, the Administration for Community Living chose May to observe Older Americans Month (OAM), a time of recognition for the elders in our nation’s communities, and to honor their unique contributions. OAM is also an opportunity to reflect on how we as a society can strengthen connections, encourage partnerships, and create policies and environments that contribute to their health and overall well-being.

The Community Living website spoke to the 2024 theme of Connection:

The 2024 theme is Powered by Connection, which recognizes the profound impact that meaningful relationships and social connections have on our health and well-being. We will explore the vital role that connectedness plays in supporting independence and aging in place by combatting isolation, loneliness, and other issues.

Women in particular are affected by this lack of connection. According to a 2020 NIH study, women reported loneliness at a greater rate than men. Women also have a higher risk for widowhood and more women than men tend to be single and live alone. This, as well as government policies that affect women’s employment and livelihoods, contributes to those feelings of loneliness, as well as economic stress. As our Independent Women’s Forum President Carrie Lukas pointed out,

Women know too well the heavy toll that big government policies place on their lives. They have watched over the past few years how the Biden Administration severely limited their ability to work flexibly and earn extra money, ripped preferred appliances from their homes, forced school and business closures, cut domestic oil and gas production skyrocketing their energy costs, and played politics with the debt rather than tackling the drivers of it.

The National Council on Aging also reported for a second year in a row that women are suffering under substantial economic stress; from not having enough saved for retirement, to a lack of confidence in their economic future and work-life prospects.

Nearly 6 in 10 (59%) women and 81% of low-income women told us they do not make enough money right now to save for retirement,” said Bill McInturff, Partner at Public Opinion Strategies. “Food insecurity also is a reality for about half of low-income Hispanic and White women. These facts directly impact a woman’s ability to plan and save for retirement.

The good news is that OAM encourages focused attention on building relationship and connections that center around not only solving the problem of loneliness but on helping older women improve and develop skills, financial and otherwise. Some creative ways to do this are:

Take the time to fix or share a meal with an older woman. This can also improve food insecurity, because this is one meal that she doesn’t have to worry about.

The weather is warming, opening up the possibility of outdoor activities. Invite an older woman for a walk out in nature, or around your neighborhood. The physical activity coupled with companionship improves mental and physical well-being.

Board Games are still a thing, especially for Boomers and Gen X. CashFlow 101 is a board game created by Rich Dad, Poor Dad’s Robert Kiyosaki, and there are CashFlow clubs nationwide where people get together to play and help each other increase their financial knowledge! Elderly women can not only interact with other women with similar goals but gain knowledge on how to improve their financial situation. Win-win!

Cognitive decline is also a real issue older women face, and games of all types help to combat this. Scrabble helps to sharpen linguistic and spelling skills while providing friendly and fun competition and engagement. There are also Scrabble clubs across the nation where anyone can meet and compete. 

Other forms of connection, such as book clubs, sewing circles, prayer groups, and community activities are ways to connect to older women or help an elderly woman in your life connect with those around her. 

Government should halt labor efforts that undermine older women’s ability to supplement their retirement income such as self-employment and independent contracting. New federal labor regulations threaten such flexibility and should be overturned. Meanwhile, tax policy that helps women catch up in savings for retirement can firm up their financial cushion.

OAM month is one way to change an elder’s life and change their world for the better, and then extend it to the rest of the months of the year.