May 3, 2013
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Older Americans Month
This May, we mark the 50th anniversary of Older Americans Month. Ever since President Kennedy declared the first celebration in 1963, we have honored the contributions seniors make to our communities and have celebrated their rich years and experiences. This year’s theme, “Unleash the Power of Age,” acknowledges older Americans’ special abilities and know-how and encourages them to share them.
We’re also reminded that all Americans benefit from having older adults in their lives. Thinking back to my own family and friends, the seniors I’ve been blessed to know have constantly enriched my life. They’ve taught me how important it is to share experiences across generations and open up opportunities to learn from each other.
The Obama administration is dedicated to improving the lives of older Americans and their family members, and the Affordable Care Act is helping us do even more to help seniors take charge of their health. Thanks to the health care law, older adults who reach the “donut hole” Medicare coverage gap for prescription drugs can now get substantial discounts for covered prescription drugs. That coverage gap will be closed by 2020.
The Affordable Care Act also makes certain vital preventive services, such as mammograms, diabetes screening, and an annual wellness visit, available with no cost-sharing for seniors with Medicare. Additionally, the health care law strengthens Medicare by cracking down on waste, fraud, and abuse, and slowing the growth of costs in Medicare.
As our country’s baby boomers age, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is finding ways to prevent the accompanying wave of elder abuse that looms. The Elder Justice Coordinating Council is bringing together leaders from across the administration—the Department of Justice, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, and others—to join the HHS Administration on Community Living in shining a bright light on the issues of financial exploitation, neglect, and abuse of older Americans.
Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are risk factors for elder abuse, and heartbreaking health conditions in their own right. The National Institutes of Health’s new BRAIN Initiative aims to unravel the mysteries of the mind and its diseases.
Older Americans Month presents a special opportunity to reach out to the elders in our lives, to thank them for their contributions and to encourage them to unleash the power of age and share it with us. Visit the Older Americans Month website at http://www.acl.gov/olderamericansmonth/ for ideas on celebrating older Americans.
Learn more about what the Affordable Care Act means to older Americans at http://www.healthcare.gov/law/information-for-you/seniors.html.