Question: What is the purpose of designating May as Older Americans Month?

Answer: More than 50 years ago President Kennedy referred to May as "Senior Citizens Month." In 1980 President Carter officially changed the name and designated May as Older Americans Month. Throughout the month communities are encouraged to recognize the accomplishments of older adults. There is also an educational focus raising the awareness of issues affecting older adults.

In 2014 the theme for Older Americans Month is "Safe Today, Healthy Tomorrow." The U.S. Administration for Community Living (ACL) states approximately six million unintentional injuries and 30,000 deaths occur annually in the elder population. Every 15 seconds an older adult receives treatment in emergency rooms throughout the nation for fall-related injuries. The financial cost for medical treatment is enormous. Additionally there is significant loss of independence and physical suffering for those injured.

This year federal, state and local agencies serving the elder population are making every attempt to inform elders and their families that many of the injuries are preventable. Fires from careless smoking, improper use of medications and automobile accidents are all concerns for this population.

Perhaps the biggest danger continues to be falls. Older adults are encouraged to have regular vision checks, have a falls risk assessment and inspect their home for potential safety hazards. Older adults should consider participating in a fall prevention program available in their community before this becomes an issue.

There is extensive information online providing additional information. One recommendation is to view/print a copy of the ACL Safety Tips at www.acl.gov/newsroom/observance.

Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff are available for no-cost consultations in the home, office or community. For additional information or to schedule a visit call 1-800-892-0890. Do you have a question? We encourage our readers to submit inquiries or comments. Direct correspondence to ro@esmv.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc. 360 Merrimack Street B#5, Lawrence, MA 01843. Rosanne DiStefano is the Executive Director of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc.