Older Americans are amazing! So amazing, in fact, they have an entire month dedicated to honoring their contributions to society. May is Older Americans Month and the theme for 2016 is “Blaze a Trail.”
This year’s theme is apropos because today more than ever, older Americans are serving as trailblazers for younger generations. Actress June Squibb was 84 years old when she won her first Academy Award for the film, Nebraska. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg took her seat as a Justice at the age of 60 and still serves today at the age of 83. Musician Rod Stewart is still touring at the age of 71.
Older Americans Month Started With JFK
In 1963, a meeting between President John F. Kennedy and the National Council of Senior Citizens started an important conversation about aging. At the time, only 17 million Americans were aged 65 or older and many of them were living in poverty. To put that in perspective, today’s older population is almost 45 million strong!
With few government programs in place to serve this growing population, the National Council of Senior Citizens urged the President to shine a spotlight on the plight of older Americans and to develop programs to support them as they aged. President Kennedy agreed and signed a Proclamation acknowledging the month of May as Senior Citizens Month. This later became Older Americans Month when Jimmy Carter took office. Since 1963, every President has ordered a yearly Proclamation that promotes Older Americans Month and encourages the rest of the nation to honor the older people in their communities.
A Tradition Starts a Movement
As a result of President Kennedy’s 1963 Proclamation, Congress passed the Older Americans Act in 1965. The new bill dealt with the lack of community services available for older Americans and authorized federal grants to be given to each state for social services, research and development, and training experts in the field of aging.
Programs you have come to count on in Indiana, such as meals-on-wheels, in-home services, free transportation for the elderly and elder abuse prevention were all byproducts of the Older Americans Act.
In addition, the U.S. Administration on Aging was established as a central government agency to oversee all the new programs that had been developed.
Our Lifestyle360 approach to wellness embodies those ideals that started back in 1963.
Themes Make Older Americans Special
President Jimmy Carter decided to take Older Americans Month to the next level by adding a theme for the month. Starting with “Older Americans and the Family” in 1978, the idea of themes stuck and have become increasingly progressive over the years.
Under President Reagan in 1985, the theme was “Help Yourself to Independence,” and under President Clinton in 1994, the theme was “Aging: An Experience of a Lifetime.” President George W. Bush chose “What We Do Makes a Difference” for Older Americans Month in 2003 and in 2012, President Obama announced a fun-loving theme, “Never Too Old to Play.”
This year’s theme, Blaze a Trail, is a nice reminder that older Americans are a valuable asset to our community, including here in Indiana. They really do blaze a trail for the rest of us, inspiring us to chase our dreams and live our best lives.
Join us in saluting and honoring older adults throughout the month of May!