CAMBRIDGE — May is Older Americans Month. While we cannot celebrate it as usual, we still encourage individuals and communities to reflect on the countless contributions that older adults make to our lives and nation. This year's theme, "Make Your Mark," highlights the difference everyone can make — in the lives of older adults, in support of caregivers, and to strengthen communities.

Around the nation, older adults make their marks every day as volunteers, employees, employers, parents, grandparents, mentors, and advocates. They offer their time, talents, and experience to the benefit of our communities.

Due to COVID-19, Guernsey County Senior Citizens Center will not be hosting any Older Americans Month activities, special luncheons, or picnics during Older Americans month in May this year. 

We miss each of the seniors and special guests that visited us every day at the center and cannot wait for them to return. Until then, we will continue to advocate and celebrate Older Americans Month and protect senior citizens during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic however we can.

For us at the senior center, celebrating senior citizens is constant and eternal. It’s an every day mission, passion, action and thought for us. Throughout the pandemic our associates have been committed frontline workers who’ve been pledged to keeping seniors safe and well. When others retreated and closed their doors we stepped up and did more and served even more in order to do what needed to be done and to make a positive difference in the community we share. We take our responsibilities of providing care for senior citizens very seriously — after all this is the role our community has entrusted, invested in us, and expects us to fulfill and do. Fortunately we are honored and consider ourselves blessed to do what we do.

As our organization continues to work to prepare and deliver home delivered meals, which have almost tripled in production during the pandemic, and we continue to provide essential services like homemaking, wellness and health check-up telephone calls, personal care, transportation, grocery shopping, and prescription pick-up services, we are fortunate to check in with several hundreds of senior citizens every day. 

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic many experienced bouts of loneliness and depression, especially during the winter months. As we acknowledge and understand that although many people live and survive this virus — over 800 people in Ohio thus far alone have succumbed to the virus. 

Their absence as loving grandparents, volunteers, and engaged citizens can certainly be felt during the COVID-19 pandemic as we socially distance ourselves and encourage seniors to not interact too closely with others and to stay home and stay safe. During these unprecedented times, it is more important than ever to celebrate and recognized older adults for their endless sacrifices and contributions.

While some able bodied older adults have continued to work and volunteer during the COVID-19 pandemic (sometimes even putting themselves and their families sometimes at risk) — some lesser able bodied older adults have sheltered in-place and have shared they are sometimes overwrought with bouts of loneliness, isolation, and depression. Some have remained very positive, optimistic, and share "they’ve lived through worse and this too we shall survive."    Social distancing and confinement, although critical in flattening the curve of the virus, has certainly had a variety of impacts on our most vulnerable and susceptible population of older Americans.

For 57 years, Older Americans Month (OAM) has been a special time to recognize the many contributions of older adults. Led by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), OAM also provides resources to help older Americans stay healthy and independent, and materials to help communities support and celebrate their senior citizens.

This year’s OAM theme, Make Your Mark, highlights older adults’ unique and lasting contributions to their communities—everything from sharing a story with grandchildren to leaving a legacy of community action. In the spirit of this theme, here are a few ways Guernsey County Senior Citizens Center encourages everyone to make their mark this May and all year long:

Volunteer your time. Help an elderly neighbor by prepping a meal, picking up groceries, or giving them a ride. Plant some flowers in a planter or hang a bird feeder, hanging flower basket, or birdhouse outside their window for them to watch and enjoy. Volunteer to sew homemade masks or color pictures, write letters, or make homemade "Thinking of You" cards to send to Meals on Wheels clients or seniors who’ve been shut-in or confined to home for over a month.

Share your story. There are so many ways to do this, from sharing childhood stories and memories, giving insight and recommendations on "lessons learned" or "lessons in life," wartime battles and experiences, or writing about a time you and your parents experienced hardship or times of struggles and how you persevered.

Keeping your mind occupied, positive, and productive. Take time to assemble a photo album of important moments in your life, write details on the backs of all of the photos, or paint, draw, craft, or wood-shop and make something special to share with someone you admire or love. Buy or share word searches, brain teasers, puzzles, and good books with your family & friends. Read a book you’ve never read from start to finish. Clean out a closet, a drawer, medicine cabinet, or pantry. Learn a new hobby like knitting, crocheting, refinishing or painting furniture. Get outside. Take a walk. Sit in your yard. Relax on the porch. Swing on a swing. Go for a ride — get away from the television and take time to breathe in some fresh air, relax, calm yourself, meditate, or pray.

Get involved in your neighborhood. Join a homeowner or resident association, or organize a neighborhood safety watch group; sign up for a book club or other online social group. Start a call tree to make telephone calls to check in on your friends and family. Have a green thumb? Small projects like weeding and planting flowers in your yard; helping clean up your neighbor’s yard; picking up trash along the curb, sidewalk, culvert, or intersection nearest to your home, or cleaning up a nearby community park or garden also have a big impact.

Communities that support and include all of their members are stronger! Please join Guernsey County Senior Citizens Center, Inc. in strengthening our community. Everyone can "make your mark" by joining us in celebrating and recognizing the many contributions of older adults. Show senior citizens that you care — clebrate Older Americans Month in May 2020.