OAM acknowledging the contributions of older adults to our nation. The 2016 OAM theme is Blaze a Trail. The Administration for Community Living will use this opportunity to raise awareness about important issues facing older adults. We will also highlight the ways that older Americans are advocating for themselves, their peers, and their communities.
Older Adults Contribute
Older adults are a growing and increasingly vital part of our country. The contributions they make to our communities are varied, deeply rooted, and include influential roles in the nation’s economy, politics, and the arts. From 69-year-old NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Jr. to 84-year-old actress Rita Moreno to 83-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who took her seat as a Supreme Court Justice at age 60, older adults are blazing trails in all aspects of American life.
History of Older Americans Month
When Older Americans Month was established in 1963, only 17 million living Americans had reached their 65th birthday. About a third of older Americans lived in poverty and there were few programs to meet their needs. Interest in older Americans and their concerns was growing. A meeting in April 1963 between President John F. Kennedy and members of the National Council of Senior Citizens led to designating May as “Senior Citizens Month,” the prelude to “Older Americans Month.”
Historically, Older Americans Month has been a time to acknowledge the contributions of past and current older adultss to our country, in particular those who defended our country. Every President since Kennedy has issued a formal proclamation during or before the month of May asking that the entire nation pay tribute in some way to older persons in their communities. Older Americans Month is celebrated across the country through ceremonies, events, fairs, and other such activities.
This year’s theme, “Blaze a Trail,” emphasizes the ways older adults are reinventing themselves through new work and new passions, engaging their communities, and blazing a trail of positive impact on the lives of people of all ages.
Ways To Help Older Adults Blaze Their Trail
Tip Sheets From Administration for Community Living
Civic engagement means working to make a difference in the lives of community members. Community service and volunteering are common ways to refer to this engagement. No matter what you call it, older Americans are doing it, and in higher numbers than ever before. Beyond helping and the people around you, being involved in your community benefits you. From preventing mental health issues by engaging in meaningful work to the physical benefits of being active and social, civic engagement is a win-win. It is never too late to give back!
Reinvention. Older adults are living longer and more healthfully than ever before. What does this mean for our notions of life after a career? Many retirees are finding new inspiration in second careers, helping others, discovering new interests, and pursuing dreams. Reinventing yourself can be fun and rewarding. Even better: it is also good for your mental and physical well-being. Whether you are planning for retirement or simply looking to get involved in new activities, start by thinking about your skills, dreams, and passions.
Securing Your Finances. You have worked and saved for years, so you want to make sure your finances are secure. The vast majority of people who will help you handle your money have good intentions, but everyone is at risk for financial abuse. Financial exploitation happens when someone improperly uses your money or property for his or her benefit. This abuse can be committed by someone you know or a stranger. Avoiding exploitation or fraud is easier when you are educated about ways to protect yourself. You have already taken the most important step by being engaged in your financial health.
Wellness. Although Americans are living longer these days, more are also developing chronic illnesses. Do illness and aging always go hand-in-hand? The answer is a surprising, but resounding, NO. It is never too late to get more active or revamp your diet. It is not a matter of training for a marathon or giving up entire food groups, either. Small things can lead to huge differences in the way you feel and the way your body works. Although you should always consult with your doctor before making changes, there are easy steps you can take toward overall wellness—regardless of your age.
Your Next Step
We encourage you to use Older Americans Month to start a conversation with aging loved ones about ways to stay active, not just physically, but emotionally, socially, financially, and mentally. The quality of life improvements are worth the time and effort it takes to help someone get started in their own trailblazing initiative.