Every May a month-long effort to celebrate older adults kicks off. While it’s important to recognize the contributions seniors make in our lives every day, Older Americans Month makes it an official celebration. It is a tradition that dates back to the Kennedy administration.
In 1963, there were an estimated 17 million adults aged 65 or older. Many of them were living in poverty. During a meeting, the National Council of Senior Citizens shared statistics and concerns about older adults and poverty with President John F. Kennedy.
Council members urged President Kennedy to help them raise awareness about the issues facing seniors and develop programs to support them. President Kennedy agreed and signed a proclamation designating May as Senior Citizens Month. (Under President Jimmy Carter, the name was changed to Older Americans Month.)
Legislation to Provide Support to Seniors
At President Kennedy’s request, Congress passed legislation to support this effort. The new bill authorized federal grants to be awarded to each state for social services, research, development, and training in the field of aging. Services like Meals on Wheels, senior transportation programs, and elder abuse agencies were all possible because of this legislation.
The U.S. Administration on Aging was also established and given oversight to monitor and provide direction to these new aging-related programs and services.
Older Americans Month 2018
The theme for this year’s Older Americans Month is “Engage at Every Age.” It is a theme chosen to remind us how important it is to stay active and connected no matter your age.
If you are looking for ways to honor a senior in your family and to encourage them to stay active, we have a few suggestions you might find helpful.
- Volunteer: Research shows that spending time serving and supporting others helps seniors live longer, healthier lives. There are many volunteer opportunities in most local communities. From elementary schools to hospitals or the local animal shelter, older adults can contribute their time and talents to a cause they believe in.
- Home fitness: Staying fit doesn’t have to mean joining a gym. Many older adults just aren’t comfortable in that type of environment. The good news is that there are DVDs a senior can purchase to workout in the privacy of their own living room. Sit and Be Fit, Stronger Seniors, and Sitting Tai Chi are all ones that receive good reviews from older adults.
- Cycling for seniors: An activity that combines a safe outdoor workout with an enjoyable way to spend time is an adult trike. It offers a sturdy frame and three wheels that make cycling safer for a senior. Most also come with a basket on the back that offers a convenient place to store picnic supplies on the way to the park.
- Games and puzzles: Playing games and working puzzles is fun at any age. Some researchers say it also protects the brain from decline. You can purchase a few board games and puzzle books to make it easier for your senior loved one to play games with friends or work puzzles on their own.
We hope you will take time during Older Americans Month to honor the seniors in your life!