Welcome to May, or as it’s also known, Older Americans Month! This month, first proclaimed by President Kennedy in 1963 as “Senior Citizens Month,” celebrates the contributions that older adults make to their communities and country.
Reaching seniority is somewhat less novel than it was in 1963. Today, Americans are living longer and healthier than they were over half a century ago. Then, the average life expectancy at birth for Americans was only 69 years, but today it is nearer to 79. In fact, people who have already been fortunate enough to reach age 65 are now likely to live an additional 19 years.
In Ohio alone, there are 2.5 million residents over the age of 60. And our state’s population is rapidly aging overall — the growth rate of the number of people over 60 is nearly 20 times faster than the growth rate of Ohio’s total population.
Unfortunately, many people still have the view that senior citizens don’t contribute to their communities as much as younger citizens. That’s simply not true, and Older Americans Month exists to change those mistaken beliefs.
Every year, a theme is chosen for Older Americans Month. In celebration of the knowledge that seniors impart knowledge hard-won over the course of their lifetimes to younger people with less experience, the theme for 2016 is “Blaze a Trail.”
How seniors can share the ways they’re blazing trails
One method is by taking pictures of themselves doing the activities they enjoy and posting them to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, in order to raise awareness about Older Americans Month.
Seniors are encouraged to download and print a sign, “I’m Blazing a Trail by...,” write on it the way they blaze trails in a daily activity and take a picture of themselves holding the sign while engaged in that activity.
By sharing that picture on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the hashtag #OAM16, older folks can show the nation that they are vibrant and solid contributors to their communities.
How we’re celebrating Older Americans Month at Episcopal Retirement Services
Our residents, in retirement communities like Cincinnati’s Deupree House and Marjorie P. Lee, are celebrating this month by doing what they normally do — living well and challenging stereotypes about seniors. Many of our residents and aging-in-place care recipients volunteer and build ties to the community at large through outreach and local business partnerships.
Programs like Deupree Meals On Wheels, the Council for Lifelong Engagement and the Speakers Bureau enable seniors to blaze trails by getting out in the community to help those in need, to share their accumulated lifetime learning and to influence businesses and government agencies to promote policies that bring the generations together.
And our residents aren’t the only ones who celebrate Older Americans Month by blazing trails. The staff here at Episcopal Retirement Services works tirelessly to partner with local business and non-profit organizations to help our residents experience the community around them. We blaze more accessible paths for our residents with discounts and savings opportunities, through our Preferred Customer program, so that our members can get out more, see more and do more in the Tristate area — affordably.
Older Americans Month is a wonderful opportunity for seniors and their advocates to show the rest of the nation just how much our older generations can still contribute. Communities thrive when the young inspire the old, and the old also advise the young. This month, get out and show America how you’re blazing a trail for the generations ahead.