Each May, the nation celebrates Older Americans Month to recognize older Americans for their contributions and also to provide them with information to help keep them active and healthy. This year’s theme is injury prevention - Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow.
Older Americans, age 65+, are at a much higher risks for injuries, violence and even death than the younger population. This year’s focus on keeping older Americans safe and healthy aims to change current statistics.
Older Americans Month History
In April 1963, President John F. Kennedy met with the National Council of Senior Citizens to learn more about the needs and concerns of older Americans.
Following that meeting, President Kennedy issued a presidential proclamation designating May as Senior Citizens Month, encouraging the nation to pay tribute in some way to older people across the country.
When President Kennedy established Older Americans Month in 1963, 17 million Americans were age 65 or older, about a third of those seniors lived in poverty, and there were few programs to meet their needs.
Two years later, in 1965, Congress passed the Older Americans Act to address the lack of community social services for older people in the United States. The original legislation authorized the federal government to make grants to the states for community planning and social services, research and development projects, and personnel training in the field of aging.
The Older Americans Act also established the U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA) to administer newly created grant programs and to serve as the primary federal agency on issues concerning older Americans.
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter changed the name to Older Americans Month.
Celebrating Older Americans Month
Every year, the U.S. Administration on Aging creates a new theme and then highlights different aspects of the lives of older Americans. Older Americans Month is celebrated across the country, state and even on local levels through various activities such as ceremonies, events, fairs and community celebrations.
The most effective way to celebrate Older Americans Month is to get involved. Volunteer for an organization that provides services to seniors; arrange a visit to a nursing home to conduct an activity or entertain residents. Most importantly, be sure to do something special this month for the seniors in your life that you care about.