Recognizing Older Americans and Employment

“Age My Way”: Celebrating Older Americans Month with the Start of a New Financial Education Program at Caring for the Caregiver

Are you asking yourself these questions? 

  • What do you want your life to look like as you grow older?
  • With which friends and family do you surround yourself?
  • How do you stay involved with your community?
  • What do you plan to do when you wake up each day?

The theme for this year’s Older Americans Month “Age my way,” invites us to reflect on what we each desire when we reach the life stage called “older adulthood.” It’s also a reminder that “aging” looks different for each of us. For some, this stage of life means letting go of responsibilities from earlier years, such as raising children and paid employment. For others, this is a time when new responsibilities emerge, such as raising grandchildren, transitioning to a “post-retirement” job, and beginning a role as a caregiver. At the heart of this theme—“Age my way”— is the idea of choice: we don’t have a choice in whether we grow older, but we can affect what growing older means to each of us, and—to some extent—what older adulthood looks like.

Still, from another angle, this year’s “Age my way” theme highlights the many constraints that limit our ability to age in the way we would most like to. For example, no one chooses to live with chronic, age-related health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and dementia. Certainly, we can delay some of these conditions through exercise, diet, and sleep habits, but eventually, our bodies will experience the effects of time. (Chronic Disease.) Even so, the effects of such conditions will vary person-to-person both by factors we can control (e.g., adhering to medications to manage conditions) and others we have less control over (e.g., being able to afford medications to manage chronic disease).

In many ways, the Older Americans Act (OAA)—the legislation we celebrate during Older Americans Month—is about giving older adults more control to age in the way we would like to. The 1965 passage of the OAA led to the creation of federally-funded community services to allow older persons to remain in engaged our communities, such as volunteering, nutrition assistance, and socialization opportunities. The objectives listed in the original legislation and today describe the authors’ goals to provide an adequate income in old age, support physical and mental health, and prevent age discrimination.  In summary, this legislation was passed to help each of us age with dignity and security—things we all want for ourselves and our older loved ones as we age.

Since its passage, this Johnson-era legislation has only expanded in its scope. In its 2000 reauthorization, the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) was added to the OAA to provide education, counseling, and respite to family members of older persons who require assistance due to chronic or disabling conditions. The addition of the NFCSP is the result of a collective realization that aging processes affect not only individuals but also families and communities. Many services offered by the Caring for the Caregiver program are sustained by funding administered through the NFCSP and distributed by our local Area Agency on Aging.

Still, for all the changes the OAA has undergone to meet the evolving needs of an aging society, its objectives to support dignity and security in old age are challenged by “policy lag.” This “lag” refers to the distance between society’s changing needs and our policy responses. The greater the lag, the more unmet need there is in our communities. This makes it more difficult to age in the way we would like.

One example of this is the high costs families pay to provide care for older persons who live in the community. While rewarding in many ways, caregiving is also incredibly expensive for families, who pay an average of nearly $7,000/year on the out-of-pocket costs of care. This includes things like home modifications, co-pays, hygiene products, and even groceries. Costs are not equally distributed. Hispanic families pay an average of 47% of their annual income on the out-of-pocket costs of care, as compared to 26% by caregivers of any ethnicity. To learn more read the 2021 AARP report on this topic:

To help families to manage the high out-of-pocket costs of care and not “fall through the cracks” left by this policy lag, Caring for the Caregiver is now offering the CONFIDENCE financial education and training program.  CONFIDENCE is being offered as a “pilot” program with support from AARP Foundation and in partnership with the University of Southern California Family Caregiver Support Center. We welcome Latino family caregivers of persons living with dementia to register for this 5-week, group-based Zoom-delivered program. (The link to register can be found at the end of this article.) Some caregivers may also be eligible for a research study, though you are not required to join this study if you choose to participate. The goal of CONFIDENCE is to help families lower out-of-pocket care costs and to manage psychological financial strain around the high costs of care.

Our hope is that services offered by Caring for the Caregiver, including CONFIDENCE, help families age in their own way, with dignity, security, and confidence. We can’t control everything that occurs when we age, but we can be prepared and learn to cope with new challenges. In this way, we celebrate what it means for each of us to age in our own desired way.

Link to Register for CONFIDENCE:

Please check back if the session you wish to attend is full! We will offer CONFIDENCE monthly for approximately the next year.

Want to learn more? Click here:


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