It’s the last day of Older Americans Month (OAM). How did you celebrate it?
Didn’t know it was a thing?
Yep. And has been for the last 60 years.
Frontida Senior Living Facilities, like Frontida of Kimberly, provide you with posts like this one to help you live your best life.
How Older Americans Month Started
In 1963, Americans recognized our society had a problem. One third of the nation’s senior citizens lived in poverty. And while there were seventeen million men and women sixty-five-years and older, that number was estimated to increase by more than forty percent within seventeen years. In other words, by 1980, there would be twenty-four million senior citizens.
The National Council of Senior Citizens met with President John F. Kennedy, and together, they knew it was time to recognize the value of these older Americans.
On April 18, 1963, President Kennedy declared the month of May to be “Senior Citizens Month.”
- He spoke of the “great national resource of skills, wisdom, and experience” that this older group added,
- That “our Nation’s progress [had] been built” on that resource,
- and that they “[continue] to enrich our daily lives and to provide counsel and leadership.”
- As these citizens got older, he wanted them to “have opportunity to share fully in the benefits of our advances in economic wealth, science, technology, and culture.”
Two years later, Lyndon B. Johnson changed the name to Older Americans Month, and every president every year since has repeated the proclamation.
Why Older Americans Month Continued
Johnson said, “The aged must be integrated into American life as full partners in the Great Society.”
In 1988, Ronald Reagan cited older Americans’ “invaluable contributions, past and present, to our Nation.” Then he declared, “They deserve … our best efforts to avoid and to dispel false ideas about aging.”
George W. Bush spoke of how “Older Americans teach us the timeless lessons of courage, sacrifice, and love” and how they’re role models for future generations, “[showing] us how to persevere in the face of hardship, care for others in need, and take pride in our communities.”
Donald Trump commented on how “Older Americans built our economy, defended our freedom, and shaped our Nation’s character. They have raised families and dedicated themselves to improving the quality of life for future generations. They sacrificed in times of hardship and took pride in a job well done.”
And most recently, this year in 2023, President Biden stated, “Older Americans are the pillars of our community” and they “should be able to live, work, and participate in their communities with dignity.”
Current Older American Numbers
Again, in 1963 when Older American Month started, there were 17 million senior citizens over sixty-five, with an expected 24 million by 1980, a forty-one percent increase.
The estimation was close. There were actually 25.59 million by 1980.
According to the 2021 census,
- senior citizens sixty-five years and older now make up 16.8% of our population. That’s 55.89 million people.
- Seventy-five years and older? 22.1 million people (6.7%).
- And there are 89,700 citizens over 100.
Doing the math, that means the number of senior citizens has tripled since President Kennedy first declared the need for a Senior Citizens Month.
And according to the Washington Post, the Administration on Aging says, by 2040, we’ll be looking at 80.8 million seniors.
Older Americans make up a significant part of our community. And they will continue to do so.
How Is Older American Month Celebrated?
Each year, the government’s Administration for Community Living (ACL) chooses a theme for the Older American Month.
The 2023 theme? “Aging Unbound” The ACL encourages us to
“explore an array of aging experiences without being boxed in by expectations and stereotypes. We’ll be discussing the positive aspects of growing older, why everyone has a role to play in combating ageism – and how we all benefit when older adults remain engaged, independent, and included in their communities.”
- 2022—Age My Way
- 2021—Communities of Strength
- 2017—Age Out Loud
- 2012—Never Too Old to Play
- 2010—Age Strong! Live Long!
But Older Americans Month isn’t just about a theme. It’s about policy. In the years since Presidents Kennedy’s first proclamation,
- Medicare has been installed
- Social Security has been strengthened
- Nutrition programs have been introduced
- And the Administration on Aging has been formed
In fact, each year in their official declaration of Older Americans Month, presidents state what policies and goals they have recently initiated for the good of the senior citizen community, including, most recently, a look at keeping the cost down for life-saving medications, like insulin.
How Can You Celebrate Older Americans Month?
Look for ways to encourage your favorite older Americans to Age “Unabound.”
- Encourage them to stay active as long as possible.
- Support their hobbies and dreams.
- Don’t limit what senior citizens “should” or “shouldn’t” do based on their age.
- Celebrate how they’ve impacted you and those around them.
- Spend time playing games with them, asking them about their memories, enjoying time together.
And while the month of May is only thirty-one days, it doesn’t mean you have to stop supporting Older Americans dreams when you flip the calendar to June.
Keep supporting them.
Keep encouraging them.
And keep recognizing the roles they have played in making this nation what it is.
At Frontida Assisted Living, we always aim to celebrate our senior citizens–not just in May, but all year long. Come check out what we offer to help older Americans live their best life.
Check out these other helpful posts on keeping seniors physically healthy.
Elizabeth Daghfal is a writer, teacher, speaker, and community volunteer. When she isn't teaching or writing-- Who are we kidding? Her husband and five kids say she's ALWAYS teaching and writing. She has a passion to help people who are struggling and is happy to say her shoulders are drip-dry. Born and raised in the South, she now lives in Wisconsin and loves it--except for the fifteen months of winter. Read more about her at elizabethdaghfal.com.