The History of Older Americans Month
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy and members of the National Council of Senior Citizens met to address the growing concerns of America’s 17 million individuals ages 65 and older. At the time, one-third of all seniors lived in poverty with few social programs available to help support them.
To raise awareness of the problems facing seniors and to honor them, then-President Kennedy and the Council proclaimed May as Senior Citizens Month.
Senior Citizens Month Becomes Older Americans Month
Two years later, in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson passed the Older Americans Act of 1965 and formally declared May as Older Americans Month. But the act did much more than raise awareness or encourage community involvement – although it did both of these things well.
Johnson took Kennedy’s proclamation and intentions a step further by taking action that resulted in positive change, financial assistance and federal support for older Americans.
The Older Americans Act:
· established the Administration on Agency, the first federal agency designed to address the struggles of older Americans
· introduced nutrition programs, transportation assistance, federally funded adult day care, legal assistance and other services for seniors
· paved the way to passing the Medicare program to offer health care to seniors
Older Americans Month in the Recent Past
The proclamation didn’t end with Johnson, either. Every president since has offered a formal proclamation declaring May as a time to remember and honor older Americans. Communities organize events, fairs, and fundraisers focusing on seniors.
Each year, the Administration on Aging (AOA) and the Administration of Community Living (ACL) establishes a theme for Older Americans Month and encourages communities to organize events based on the theme.
For instance, in 2014, Older Americans Month focused on injury and fall prevention for seniors with the theme “Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow.”
Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans act. The year’s theme, “Get into the Act,” encouraged seniors to take action in a number of ways including:
· getting active in their communities
· taking charge of their health and wellness
· making a difference in the lives of others through mentorship, community involvement and volunteerism
Celebrating Older Americans Month in 2016
This year’s theme, Blaze a Trail, builds upon the notion of older adults making a difference in their community by highlighting seniors who are advocating for themselves, their communities, and other older Americans.
Activities for the month may focus on empowering seniors to become trailblazers in ways big and small – from managing their finances better to taking charge of their health and wellness.
The ACL encourages event organizers to hold a “Trailblazer Story Competition” where older Americans can share their inspiration stories of ways they have made positive changes in their lives, their communities, or the lives of others.
Join Five Star Senior Living is saluting older adults through the month of May and every day after!