Exercise marks Older Americans Month

By Krista Allen
Western Agency Bureau

PAGE, Ariz., May 15, 2014

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(Times photo - Krista Allen)

One of the competitions involved throwing a softball for maximum distance at the 2014 Older Americans Month celebration on May 2 in Page, Ariz. Tuba City and Kaibeto senior centers battled for prizes in the women's round.

To give them more freedom of movement for the first competition, they stretched.

"Start exercising, move your legs around," said master of ceremonies Darryl Jim.

As temperatures climbed into the low 80s, many of the men and women walked or jogged in place, and did front kicks. They did side stretches and torso twists.

Jim told them that when the heart muscle contracts at a higher rate, the increased volume of blood moves more rapidly through the arteries and veins of the body, boosting circulation.

"Take care of yourselves," said Jim.

In honor of Older Americans Month, the fourteen Western senior centers came together on Saturday for a day of activities at the Sports Complex.

Charles Joe of the Navajo Area Agency on Aging says May is Older Americans Month, which was designated as "Senior Citizens Month" by President John F. Kennedy in April 1963 after he learned about the needs and concerns of older Americans.

At that time, only 17 million Americans had reached age 65. And nearly a third of those seniors lived in poverty.

In 1965, Congress passed the Older Americans Act to address the lack of community social services for older people in the U.S. And since then, the nation has been acknowledging those advanced in years − annually − for their contributions and to encourage them to adopt healthy lifestyles.

"It's good," said Russell Martin I, 66, from LeChee, Ariz. "(We) get to get together and socialize."

Older Americans Month has become a tradition. The focus for this year is on injury prevention with the 2014 theme, "Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow."

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, older men and women are at a much higher risk of unintentional injury and even death than the rest of the population. And unintentional injuries to this population result in at least 6 million medically treated injuries and more than 30,000 deaths every year.

With a focus on safety during the month of May, the Administration for Community Living plans to use this opportunity to raise awareness about this critical issue.

Activities over the weekend included soft ball throw, broom dance, balloon dance, and purse races, and song and dancing intermissions.

Today, there are more than 40 million Americans reaching that milestone, according to the Census Bureau.

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