Older Americans Month was created in 1963 to showcase the many contributions of older adults. The 2021 Older Americans Month theme, Communities of Strength, underscores the importance, value and expertise that older adults bring to their communities.
Texas has one of the fastest-growing populations of older adults in the nation. According to a 2019 report from the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 5 million older adults age 60 and older currently live in Texas, and that population is expected to grow to 7.2 million by 2030.
As a population at higher risk of severe COVID-19, older adults have been heavily impacted by the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that they have experienced significant losses of loved ones, safety concerns and isolation.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has been hard at work over the past year bringing needed services and resources to older Texans.
Early in the pandemic, HHSC accessed federal Civil Money Penalties (CMPs) funding to help long-term care facility residents stay better connected. HHSC announced in May 2020 that nursing facilities could each apply for up to $3,000 in CMP funds to purchase communication devices — such as tablets, webcams, headphones and other accessories — to hold virtual visits with loved ones.
In October 2020, HHSC announced it was making an additional $3.5 million in CMP funding available for nursing facilities to purchase plexiglass barriers, tents and other equipment to allow these visits to be safe and comfortable both indoors and outdoors.
“This federal funding enhanced the health and safety of residents and their families as facilities across the state welcomed essential caregivers and other visitors, who are now providing much-needed support to their loved ones in the facilities we regulate,” said David Kostroun, HHSC Regulatory Services deputy executive commissioner.
During the pandemic, HHSC created the Know Your Neighbor campaign (PDF), which aims to address the isolation experienced by many older adults by encouraging and providing tips and resources on safely connecting and engaging with older neighbors.
HHSC also launched the third year of the Texas Talks campaign, which encourages everyone to have conversations with older family members and friends about aging issues and make preparations for the future.
To continue supporting older Texas with healthy aging during the pandemic, Texercise developed methods to host Classic and Select programs virtually, allowing Texans age 45 and older to stay socially engaged while learning about physical activity and nutrition.
This May is a great time to recognize older Texans for the vital roles they play in our communities. Reach out to or connect virtually with your older loved ones or neighbors using HHSC resources as a guide.
For more information on HHSC services and resources for older adults and their family and friends, visit the Age Well Live Well webpage.