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Women’s History Month Reminds Us Things Have Gotten Better

There is much to feel positive about related to women’s health. Since the beginning of the 20th century, life expectancy has increased significantly due to improvements in public health, nutrition, and medical technology including improved treatments and better medications for heart disease, stroke, infectious diseases, and certain cancers, such as breast and colon cancers. As a result, the OECD reported in 2018 that more than 5,000 female Baby Boomers turning 65 every day can expect to live another 20 years. Women’s History Month is a chance to remember major milestones that made aging well easier for women.

Improvements to Medicare over the past 20 years have had a positive impact on older women. For example, a significant advance in care for older women came in 2003 with the creation of Medicare Part D, or the Medicare prescription drug benefit. The benefit helps cover the costs of prescription drugs for people with Medicare. Subsidies are available help low income older adults. Since 2011, the Affordable Care Act requires a free preventative annual wellness visit for everyone on Medicare. The Affordable Care Act also requires additional preventive services with no copay for older women, including bone density scans for osteoporosis and mammograms. These benefits are important for proactive health and I urge all female Medicare beneficiaries take advantage of them.

Through funding from the Older Americans Act, communities across the country offer health promotion and disease prevention programs that empower older women with tools to better manage on-going illnesses, engage in physical activity to reduce falls risk, and address common mental health conditions such as depression. These programs, offered in senior centers, libraries, recreation centers, and many other convenient locations are often free or low cost to older adults and provide an opportunity for social engagement with other older adults. We developed the Aging Mastery Program, a fun and engaging education and behavior change incentive program for aging well that focuses on a different aspect of the aging process.

Finally, so many older women across the country are caregivers to their spouses, adult children and increasingly their grandchildren and other young relatives. Caregiving can have a significant impact on the health of the caregiver. Many resources are available to assist caregivers in their journey. The National Family Caregiver Support Program funds a range of supports that assist family and informal caregivers to care for their loved ones at home for as long as possible.

Take advantage of these resources during Women’s History Month! Be proactive about your health, and check reliable sources like local senior centers or an Area Agency on Aging to find out what programs are available in your community. You’ll be more prepared for your own journey to aging well.

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About Kathleen A. Cameron, BSPharm, MPH,

Kathleen A. Cameron, BSPharm, MPH, is Senior Director of NCOA's Center for Healthy Aging. Kathy has more than 25 years of experience in the health care field as a pharmacist, researcher, and program director focusing on falls prevention, geriatric pharmacotherapy, mental health, long-term services and supports, and caregiving. She is also the Senior Director of the National Falls Prevention Resource Center.