Older Americans Month is observed annually every May in the United States. It is primarily observed to recognize the contributions of older people to the country. Internationally, older adults are defined as people over the age of 60, as determined by the United Nations. In 2019 (the most recent year for which data is available) in the U.S., the population aged 65 and older numbered 54.1 million individuals. They represented 16% of the population, more than one in every seven Americans.
Older Americans Month was established in 1963 when there were only 17 million Americans aged 65 and above. At that time, around a third of older Americans lived in poverty, and there were very few programs to meet their needs.
To put this in perspective, the National Retired Teachers Association (NRTA) was established in 1947 to help retired teachers obtain health insurance. AARP evolved from the NRTA and since its inception in 1958, has worked to help all retired persons in the US and around the world find health insurance. It was not until 1965 that Medicare was established in the US, providing medical insurance to people over 65. In the meantime, AARP has grown and changed dramatically in response to societal changes, while remaining true to its founding principles.
In any case, starting around 1963, there has been a significant increase in the number of older adults and interest in their concerns. In April 1963, a meeting was held between President John F. Kennedy and members of the National Council of Senior Citizens (N.C.S.C.), leading to the designation of May as Senior Citizens Month, now Older Americans Month. Following this meeting, every president has issued a formal proclamation during the month of May, requesting that communities pay tribute to their local older Americans.
Since 1978, according to the Administration for Community Living (A.C.L.), Older Americans Month has been observed with a different theme each year. Some of those themes included: Older Americans and the Family (1978), In the New Century … The Future is Aging (2000), and Age Strong! Live Long! (2010). The change in the themes represents changes in how seniors or older Americans think of themselves and how they could/should be viewed. In 2019, the theme was Connect, Create, Contribute — as an encouragement for older Americans to connect with family, friends, and services, create by engaging in activities, and contribute to their communities.
In 2020, it was Make Your Mark, in which seniors and senior organizations were encouraged to find their special skill or interest and do something with it which would have an impact on their community.
The 2021 theme was Communities of Strength, celebrating the stories and contributions of older Americans that helped support and inspire others. In many communities, teens or new business owners were paired with seniors, who shared their stories and mentored younger members of their local towns.
Age My Way (2022) focused on how older people can remain in and be involved with their communities. The local communities of Montclair, West Orange and South Orange worked together to plan Walk My Way events in their towns, which combined 1-2 mile walks, with learning something about the parks or walking paths from local leadership. Though there is a new theme for 2023, these events were so popular last year, that the three towns have scheduled Walk my Way events again which will take place throughout the spring of 2023. One event was held on May 12, 2023 at Anderson Park in Montclair. Another walk is planned for June 14 in West Orange. Homewatch CareGivers of South Orange has supported these events by providing a healthy lunch for the walkers at the conclusion of the event.
- According to research studies, 53% of Americans aged 65 or older have a presence online.
- While Pickleball was created in 1965, it has become the fastest growing sport in the nation, attributed to its popularity within community centers and retirement communities.
- Reportedly, only 3.6% of people over 65 years old are in nursing homes and many seniors prefer to live in their own homes.
- It is said that although older adults tend to wake up during the night, they get a good night’s sleep regularly.
- According to the American Psychological Association, nine in 10 older adults are doing enough to manage stress.
This year, 2023, the theme is Aging Unbound, which offers an opportunity to explore diverse aging experiences and discuss how local communities can combat ageism. With this theme, we have the opportunity to explore how older Americans are creating new experiences for themselves and their communities, without being boxed in by the expectations of others and established stereotypes.
Delving into this theme also leads us to explore the positive aspects of growing older, why everyone has a role to play in combating ageism, and how we all benefit when older adults remain engaged, independent, and included in their communities. With many older Americans living well into their nineties, losing their friends and family members, many are finding ways to continue to develop themselves alongside new friends in their nineties and beyond. Let’s remember that older adults have so many experiences which they can share with younger generations, and they can also be a support to each other.
Homewatch CareGivers of South Orange provides hourly and live-in home care services to adults in their homes, residential communities and facilities in Essex, Union and parts of Passaic and Morris counties in New Jersey. Our compassionate caregivers are certified home health aides, who are supervised by our staff nurses and social workers, with the goal of enabling seniors in our care to remain as independent and engaged as possible. We select our caregivers carefully, taking into consideration the necessary skills, experience and personality needed to meet the needs of our senior clients. Our care team is always available to our clients and their families, and our services are available from a few hours a week (companionship care) to 24/7, short term (post-surgical care) or extended care needs (assisting seniors living with dementia, or post stroke, illness, or accidents). If you or someone you know wants to learn about our award-winning care services, call (973) 810-0110 or email Randi Brokman at email@example.com to schedule a complimentary consultation.