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, but 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 persons 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, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act (OAA), the US Department of Health and Human Services is focusing on how older adults are taking charge of their health, getting engaged in their communities, and making a positive impact in the lives of others. The theme for Older Americans Month 2015 is Get into the Act.
Older Americans Month provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of community engagement as a tool for enhancing the wellbeing of older adults. Now is the time to Get into the Act to make the benefits of community living a reality for more older Americans. Together we can promote healthy aging, increase community involvement for older adults, and tackle important issues like the prevention of elder abuse.