Every May, the Administration for Community Living leads our nation’s observance of Older Americans Month. The theme for 2021 is “Communities of Strength.”
Older adults have built resilience and strength over their lives through successes, failures, joys, and difficulties. Their stories and contributions help to support and inspire others. This OAM, we will celebrate the strength of older adults and the Aging Network, with special emphasis on the power of connection and engagement in building strong communities.
There are many things we all can do to nurture ourselves, reinforce our strength, and continue to thrive. Connecting with others is one of the most important—it plays a vital role in our health and well-being, and in that of our communities. From finding joy in small things and sharing our stories, to looking at the big picture and giving to others, join us in promoting the ways we are connected and strong.
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. 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.”
Two years later, in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson passed the Older Americans Act of 1965 and formally declared May as Older Americans Month. But the act did much more than raise awareness or encourage community involvement – although it did both of these things well.
Johnson took Kennedy’s proclamation and intentions a step further by taking action that resulted in positive change, financial assistance and federal support for older Americans.
The Older Americans Act:
· established the Administration on Agency, the first federal agency designed to address the struggles of older Americans
· introduced nutrition programs, transportation assistance, federally funded adult day care, legal assistance and other services for seniors
· paved the way to passing the Medicare program to offer health care to seniors
The proclamation didn’t end with Johnson, either. Every president since has offered a formal proclamation declaring May as a time to remember and honor older Americans. Communities organize events, fairs, and fundraisers focusing on seniors.
Each year, the Administration on Aging (AOA) and the Administration of Community Living (ACL) establishes a theme for Older Americans Month and encourages communities to organize events based on the theme.
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.
We invite everyone to celebrate Older Americans Month and build “Communities of Strength” this May! Here are some ways to share and connect with older adults in your community:
- Intergenerational Pen (or Keyboard) Pals: Encouraging intergenerational pen pals can reduce isolation and increase resilience in people of all ages. Here are some writing prompts to get the conversations started.
- Distanced Outdoor Event: Seeing other people in person—even with masks on and from a six-foot distance—can offer a richer sense of connection and community than virtual gatherings. The CDC says that outdoor gatherings with plenty of ventilation, masks, and social distancing pose less risk of spreading COVID-19. Check out our event tip sheet for a fun and safe event!
- Reach out to neighbors: Even if you can’t get together in person right now, you can still connect with your neighbors. Leave a small gift on their doorstep, offer to help with outdoor chores, or deliver a home cooked meal.
- Volunteer an hour of your time: There are many seniors in your community who could use an hour of your time. Find your local area agency on aging to learn about volunteer opportunities today. Volunteer to be an Ombudsman who advocates for residents in a nursing home or a Veteran in a VA home.
Activity Ideas: acl.gov/oam/2021/oam-2021-activity-ideas
Hashtags: #OAM2021 #OlderAmericansMonth