Did you know that May is Older Americans Month? It was news to The Babbling Brook. Here’s what we have learned:
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living, Older Americans Month was established in 1963, when 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 precursor to “Older Americans Month.” 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.
Today, a 65-year-old can expect to live an average of nearly 20 additional years, and thanks to Social Security, only 9 percent of adults aged 65 and older are below the poverty line.
Older adult programming has grown by leaps and bounds (in our neck of the woods, SourcePoint is an outstanding resource!), and the older adult population is experiencing unprecedented growth and influence. In 2016, 49 million US adults were 65 or older, representing 15% of the population. That number is expected to reach 71 million by 2030 and 98 million by 2060—when older adults will make up nearly 25% of the population.
Here at our three Willow Brook campuses, we like to think of every month as Older Americans Month. Our staff are experts at acknowledging our residents, and realizing that they are only seeing one moment in time of a life full of stories, challenges, and joys. Willow Brook’s publications and social media posts, too, pay tribute to and highlight the contributions of older Americans. Our annual Memory Tree event, which has had to be reimagined in the past couple years, honors the memory of those we have loved and lost.
This week, our charge to you is to take time to recognize and uplift an older American who has been important to you, and to give thanks for their life and legacy. Perhaps you can send a note, write a journal entry, or plant a tree in his or her honor. Maybe a donation to a nonprofit that serves older adults or veterans is more your style. What about creating a collage or another kind of art that reminds you of that special person? If your older American is still living, a check-in phone call might be appreciated.
We at The Babbling Brook happen to love older Americans, and have the privilege of being surrounded by them every day! We’d love for you to share in the comments about an older American who has been special to you and why. We’ll go first.