Usually, the month of May is associated with the beginning of Spring, Memorial Day barbecues and Older Americans Month. When this special designation was first established, roughly a third of older Americans were living in poverty, with few services available to help them tackle the challenges of aging. Then, in 1963, older Americans came to the forefront of the national consciousness. The president at the time—John F. Kennedy—and the National Council of Senior Citizens decided that May should be declared “Senior Citizens Month” (later changed to “Older Americans Month”).
At first, the purpose of Older Americans Month was to acknowledge the contributions these individuals made to our country— particularly those who’d served in the armed forces. However, the meaning of the observance has since broadened to encompass a much wider range of individuals. Each year following the creation of Older Americans month, the sitting president issues a statement requesting that the nation find a way to pay tribute to older adults. That’s why, throughout May, you’ll see special ceremonies, events, fairs, and similar activities across the country.
In fact, this year is the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act (OAA). The focus for Older American’s month in 2015 is how this population can take charge of their health, engage with their communities, and make a positive impact on others. This year’s theme is “Get into the Act.” Read on for ideas about how to celebrate an older adult’s achievements— both past and present!
Share their stories
People are story-telling creatures by nature, and older adults have accumulated a lifetime of wonderful stories! We can respect and honor them not only by listening to their stories, but by sharing them as well. Social media makes this easier than ever before, as there are countless channels with groups specifically focused on older adults. Get some great tales from an older adult in your life, and watch them spread across the web– and beyond!
Recognize an older adult at work
Some may believe in the stereotype that says older adults sit around all day at home or in lawn chairs, but in reality, many older adults are proactive and essential members of their community. Many older adults hold either part-time or full-time jobs, so maybe this month you could ask their boss if a small celebration can be arranged at their workplace (it helps if you or others offer to pitch in). There, you can reiterate their accomplishments, thank them for their contributions, and show how much the organization values them.
Have a family appreciation day
As a community, we can (and should) appreciate older adults for so much more than their work! This month, it could be fun to gather family members together for dinner or a party and have them all share how they have been impacted by an older adult in their lives. It could be something as simple as wise words offered at the right time or selflessly taking on childcare tasks so parents could work or have some time to themselves. Be prepared for good times, tenderness, and tears!
Give the gift of home health care
If an older adult’s professional life has come to a close, and they are homebound, let them know they’re valued by helping them maintain their independence. A home health aide or other medical services at home may prevent them from having to move out of their home and into a facility. These services are convenient because they can be customized to suit your loved one’s needs. This way, the older adult in your life can be set up to enjoy as much help as they want. The best part of this arrangement is that home health care allows an older adult to remain in their own, familiar home, surrounded by the loved ones, friends, neighbors, and the community they’ve contributed to so greatly.
Celebrate older Americans all year long
Older Americans are an invaluable resource to our society. If there’s an older adult in your life, now is the perfect time to celebrate the influence they’ve had on you – and on the world in general. But the appreciation doesn’t have to end on May 30th. The ideas above are ones you can use to let older friends, family, and co-workers know they’re valued all twelve months of the year!
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.