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Older Americans Month 2011: “Connecting the Community”

When Older Americans Month was established in 1963, only 17 million living Americans had reached their 65th birthdays. 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, however. In April of 1963, President John F. Kennedy’s meeting with the National Council of Senior Citizens served as a prelude to designating May as “Senior Citizens Month.”

Thanks to President Jimmy Carter’s 1980 designation, what was once called Senior Citizens Month is now called “Older Americans Month,” and it has become a tradition.

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 JFK 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.

Every May since 1963, people in towns and cities across the country have come together to celebrate the enormous contributions of older Americans—borne of wisdom, experience and the will to realize their dreams and speak their minds. Older Americans Month is our chance to show our appreciation and support our seniors as they continue to enrich and strengthen our communities.

The theme of this year’s celebration—“Older Americans: Connecting the Community”—pays homage to the many ways in which older adults bring inspiration and continuity to the fabric of our communities.  Their shared histories, diverse experiences and wealth of knowledge have made our culture, economy and local character what they are today.

The theme also highlights the many ways technology is helping older Americans live longer, healthier and more engaged lives. In fact, older Americans are more active in community life than ever before, thanks in part to advances in health care, education, technology, and financial stability over the last several decades that have greatly increased their vitality and standard of living. Older adults are out and about giving back and making a difference in their community.

Our seniors are mentoring the leaders of tomorrow, taking to heart the need for intergenerational learning to guide and inspire young minds. They offer a take on times gone by not discussed in any history class—a unique perspective that sheds new light on contemporary issues.

Older Americans step up to help one another as well. Across the country, seniors connect with other seniors by delivering meals, helping with home repair, assisting with shopping, and offering companionship, counseling, and care. Their efforts remind us that when older adults are active and engaged in their communities, everyone benefits.

Help us celebrate Older Americans Month! Join your neighbors not only to recognize what older citizens bring to our communities, but also to help them continue playing a vital role in weaving a unique and lasting community fabric.

Contact SeniorsPlus, the local Area Agency on Aging, to find out about volunteer opportunities with programs that provide services for seniors to improve health literacy, increase access to quality health services, deliver food and nutrition services, provide financial and housing counseling, sponsor social and civic activities, and more.

When you help seniors thrive in your community, you gain far more than you give!

For more information on SeniorsPlus, see www.seniorsplus.org; or visit its SeniorsPlus at 8 Falcon Road, P.O. Box 659, Lewiston; or call 1-800-427-1241 or 795-4010.

For more information on Older Americans Month, see the Administration on Aging, which is part of The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at http://www.aoa.gov.

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