During the month of May, communities across the nation held Older Americans Month events and ceremonies to honor American seniors and their contributions.
Forget that mental image of the doddering elderly person so popular in TV sitcoms. We all know America’s seniors are influential, productive, and active members of society, accomplishing remarkable things and sharing their hard-earned expertise to make a positive impact in their communities. Each year since 1963, Older Americans Month has taken the month of May to celebrate those valuable contributions through public recognition, ceremonies, and events. This year, the U.S. Administration on Aging partnered with cities and organizations across the nation to honor local elders who embodied this year’s theme for Older Americans Month, “Unleash the Power of Age.”
Just 50 years ago, only 17 million living Americans had reached their 65th birthdays, and around a third of American seniors lived in poverty, according to the Administration on Aging. To address this situation and raise awareness of the concerns and needs of older adults, President John F. Kennedy designated May 1963 as Senior Citizens Month. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter changed the moniker to Older Americans Month, and promoted a tradition of honoring the contributions of seniors past and present, particularly veterans who have defended our country.
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Now, in 2013, the number of seniors 65 and older has more than doubled. In 2011, seniors accounted for 13.3% of the total population, reports the U.S. Census Bureau; 9.2 million of those are estimated to be veterans of the armed forces. Older Americans have a huge impact on our society, from the wisdom and experience of the “Greatest Generation” to the vitality and engagement of the retiring Baby Boomers, and May is the time to show appreciation for their ongoing achievements.
Unleashing the Power of Age—that’s what the Administration on Aging urged people to do for this year’s Older Americans Month, and communities across the country rose to the challenge by honoring a wide range of hardworking and accomplished seniors who embody that theme.
Celebrations took place from coast to coast—and beyond: At the island of Kaua’i’s 47th Older Americans Recognition Ceremony, Dr. Lucy Miller and William Neil Rapozo were awarded the titles of Outstanding Female and Male Older Americans for their achievements in service, advocacy, and leadership in the community. Miller was honored for her hard work in the area of disability awareness, providing mentorship and outreach to public service agencies and other organizations. Rapozo was recognized for his community leadership and involvement, including his position as a lieutenant colonel of the Civil Air Patrol, assisting in emergencies such as air searches and disaster relief.
Organizations throughout the nation were able to nominate individuals from their local area for the national-level “Unleash the Power of Age in Your Community Challenge.” After a vote by judges and the public, three winners were selected, all of whom unleash the power of age in their own diverse ways: Epifanio Vega Gonzalez enriches lives with music; Pat Sussman helps older people age in place and live independently; and Robert “Bob” Craig is described as the “ultimate volunteer.” Read more about them on the Older Americans Month 2013 website.
Did your community celebrate Older Americans Month last month? Did you attend any events in honor of Older Americans Month? Share your experiences with us in the comments.