Older Americans Month recognizes the countless ways in which elders contribute to our communities. The 2018 theme reminds us that we’re never too old to make a difference.
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy met with the National Council of Senior Citizens to discuss the growing concerns of America’s seniors. At that time, a third of US citizens 65 and older were living in poverty, and there were few community assistance programs available to support them. To raise awareness of the challenges facing the country’s elderly, Kennedy designated May as Senior Citizens Month.
Two years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Older Americans Act of 1965 into law. The landmark legislation authorized federal funding for state agencies on aging. The law also established the Administration on Aging within the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and it charged the agency with addressing various struggles among older Americans.
The Older Americans Act introduced programs to assist seniors in areas including nutrition, transportation, adult day care, and justice—and it provided a path to the eventual passing of the Medicare program.
Johnson declared May to be Older Americans Month the same year. And for the past 55 years, every US president has formally proclaimed May as a time for honoring older Americans.
Engage at Every Age
Today, the annual observance provides opportunities to recognize the many ways in which older Americans contribute to our communities. This year’s theme, “Engage at Every Age,” points out that we are never too old—or too young—to participate in activities that enrich our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Life expectancies of Americans have steadily increased since the Older Americans Act became law. But living longer does not in itself guarantee a better quality of life.
Having a sense of purpose is important to enjoying a fulfilling life. Whatever their ages, people want to feel as if they are making a meaningful difference. That need does not diminish as we age. Indeed, most older adults have a desire to keep contributing—to their families and friends, and to society in general.
Older Americans Month is a great time to consider ways to keep elders engaged. The Administration on Aging offers several suggestions, such as helping to promote mental and physical wellness, sharing wisdom and experience with younger generations through mentoring, and accepting advice from someone older than you.
At Sunset Communities, we’re honoring our Older American residents with social activities throughout May. Beginning with a festive Cinco de Mayo celebration, we’re hosting several other special events, including a Mother’s Day brunch, a Super Hero dress-up contest, an ice cream social, a cookout, and an outdoor music concert.
For their part, our residents are celebrating Older Americans Month by engaging with their local communities. Many have hand-painted their own creative designs on small rocks in an effort to spread joy throughout town. Staff members are assisting by hiding the painted rocks where community members can find and enjoy them. Those who find rocks are encouraged to post photos of the rocks on social media.
It’s Never Too Late
In the days when John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were president, Americans over 65 were considered old and often needy. Seniors were expected to retire and become less active. But views on aging have evolved, and older adults now seek ways to live active and fulfilling lives.
Let Older Americans Month serve as your reminder that it’s never too late to become engaged.