Growing Old, Serious Business

By Pam Hayle, Chair,
Vital Aging Network

May is Older Americans Month—a month set aside to celebrate the contributions of older adults to our society. When President Kennedy first celebrated older Americans by designating May 1963 as Senior Citizens Month, Kennedy encouraged all Americans to pay tribute to older people across the country. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter changed the name to Older Americans Month which we continue to celebrate today.

I was recently skimming through my community newspaper and was drawn to the title “Older Americans Month: Blaze a Trail.” The title made me smile and feel proud to be an older adult, that smile soon turned to disappointment when the major kick-off event was “Celebrate your month at the Birthday Bash and Bingo lunch”, followed by weekly events like making a May basket, ice cream social, and free Arthritis and Nutrition Tips. I had to read it several times to be sure I was not missing something more important, meaningful, serious such as a community project, volunteer opportunities, a lecture on current events, or anything designed to stimulate the minds and spirits of older adults.

I have continued to ponder this over the last couple of weeks. Are these events what older adults in my community want or is it just an easy way to have activities versus engaging older adults in meaningful ways. I challenge us all to do one thing this month that is “serious” that shows the vital role older adults have in their communities. Celebrate Older Americans Month in a serious way that makes a difference, and of course there is nothing wrong with having a little ice cream along the way.

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