Q:  What is Older American’s Month?

A:  May is recognized as Older American’s Month and is led by the Administration for Community Living. This year is the 60th anniversary of the year that President John F. Kennedy issued the first proclamation marking this month. It is recognized as a time to celebrate the contributions of older adults to our country.

In 1963, when the first Older Americans month was proclaimed (at the time it was called Senior Citizens Month), about one third of all older Americans lived in poverty and close to half had no health insurance.  Since then, Medicare was established into law in 1965, Social Security has been strengthened, and other social service programs have been implemented to support older adults. Currently, approximately 10 percent of older adults in our country live in poverty. While we have made strides, clearly much more work needs to be done to support this vulnerable population.

The theme of Older Americans Month 2023 is “Aging Unbound.” This provides an opportunity to examine and celebrate diverse aging experiences. It challenges us to be flexible in our thinking about aging and to challenge stereotypes.

The theme challenges us to embrace the opportunity for change, explore the rewards of growing older and stay engaged in community. Use this as inspiration to find a new passion and see that it is never too late in life to find things that make us feel inspired. Try something new, explore a new hobby or class, and get outside of your comfort zone.

Think about the rewards of growing older. Joan Erickson, the wife and collaborator of the well-known psychoanalyst Erik Erickson, was quoted as saying “lots of old people don’t become wise, but you don’t get wise unless you age.”

And yet, many Americans fear growing older. The bulk of these fears are rooted in worries about a decline in health, as well as concerns about finances and losing loved ones. These are, of course, valid fears, but perhaps they can be tempered by recognizing some of the benefits of growing older. Aging provides a unique opportunity to gain wisdom, have a new perspective on life, and re-evaluate your priorities. Try and recognize those benefits and lean into the wisdom that is found in aging.

Look at your community and find ways to be engaged. Not just for yourself, but for others who are in need of your involvement. Support your local home delivered meal program because these agencies are delivering not only food nourishment but also social connections to homebound seniors. Reach out to your older neighbors and offer support and friendship. We have the power to create the community we want to live in as we age.

In President Biden’s proclamation of Older Americans Month this year, he states “Older Americans are the pillars of our community, and we owe it to them to value their wisdom, celebrate their contributions, and champion their well-being.  To older Americans across this Nation, we will always support you.”

Let us all recognize this month and be an example of supporting and lifting the accomplishments and wisdom of the older adults in our community.

Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at mshapiro@seniorconcerns.org.


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