A quick Google search of “U.S. Population by Age” will show you quickly that the baby boomers are hitting some milestones. With the first baby boomers hitting 65 in 2011, what was once the largest generation is now the largest aging population in the U.S., with about 56 million Americans in the 65+ crowd. With more baby boomers to follow, it’s estimated that the aging population will reach 80 million by 2040.
What does this all mean? Essentially, it means the most people ever will have a reason to celebrate Older Americans Month in May of 2021.
What Is Older Americans Month?
Older Americans Month is celebrated every May with the Administration for Community Living leading the way. To understand the designation, it’s important to know a few basics of Older Americans Month History.
Older Americans Month dates back to 1963, after a meeting with President John F. Kennedy and the National Council of Senior Citizens led to naming May “Older Americans Month.” The purpose of the designation was, and still is, a time to acknowledge what aging Americans contribute to the country, particularly those who served in the armed forces.
Older Americans Month is celebrated in a variety of ways across the country, from special ceremonies and events to fairs and other organized activities. Additionally, the sitting President of the United States issues a formal proclamation reminding citizens to pay tribute to elders in their lives and their community.
The theme of Older Americans Month in 2021 is “Communities of Strength,” promoting the celebration of aging adults who have contributed to and engaged in their communities to make them stronger.
Community Support for Aging Americans
Sheer numbers aren’t the only reason that the United States government has made commitments to building and strengthening community for its older members. In fact, such support began long before the Boomer generation came of age with the passage of the Older Americans Act (or the OAA) in 1965.
The OAA originally established grants for community planning and social services aimed specifically at aging Americans. This act allowed more widespread services such as social and nutritional services for the aging population.
In 2020, these grants, programs, and services were reauthorized for FY 2020 through FY 2024 by the federal government, ensuring that one of the largest generations will be fully supported by the federal government and their local communities.
How to Celebrate Older Americans Month
There are several Older Americans Month activities that you can help organize and promote in your community to commemorate this special month of these most special citizens in our community. Some activities could include:
- Organize Storytelling Sessions
Encourage aging members of your community to share their stories in writing, in pictures, or good old-fashioned oral storytelling. Hearing their stories will inspire the same kind of perseverance and service to their country that they’ve shown through the years.
- Host a Scrapbooking Party
Help seniors organize their memories by preserving and displaying their most precious photographs and mementos of a life well-lived. Encourage them to share their scrapbooks with loved ones and neighbors as a way to engage in conversation.
- Encourage Intergenerational Activities
Organize special days for grandparents and their grandchildren (or adopted “grandchildren for the day”). Organize games or crafts that they can do together to spend some constructive time together.
- Provide Some Entertainment
Schedule some community entertainers to perform for the seniors in your community. Host a night of dancing and music that will take them back to their youth by embracing the season and organizing a Senior Prom. All activities should follow proper COVID-19 protocols.
- Just Give Them Your Time
One of the easiest things you can do to commemorate those special seniors in your life and your community is by simply carving out time to spend with them. Aging can often bring loneliness and isolation to older Americans, and socializing can reduce the effects. Finding time to spend with them, having a cup of tea, or engaging in a casual chat can help curb their feelings of isolation.
Older Americans Month can be (and should be!) celebrated in a variety of ways. Find time this month to commemorate those older Americans who have made contributions both great and small to your life and the life of your community.