Topics on Aging

By Juan Gallo

What is Older Americans Month?

May 2, 2022

What is Older Americans Month
This week at Heart2Heart, we begin the observation of Older Americans Month, celebrated in May every year since 1963. This year, the Administration for Community Living has declared the Older Americans Month theme as “Age My Way.”

I think the month is an important opportunity to look back on the history of aging in America. The year Older Americans Month first started was a formative time for civil rights. It was the year of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It was the year of the Children’s Crusade in Birmingham and the Chicago Public Schools Boycott.

It’s not by mistake that when you see pictures of Martin Luther King Jr. marching for freedom with fellow Americans, there are also people in wheelchairs and older people marching alongside him.

There was a nationwide movement for inclusion and diversity. But not just diversity in race and color but diversity of the whole person. Other groups were also pushing back against the ways they had been excluded.

It’s not by mistake that when you see pictures of Martin Luther King Jr. marching for freedom with fellow Americans, there are also people in wheelchairs and older people marching alongside him.

Older Americans Month is the result of a meeting in April 1963 between President John F. Kennedy and members of the National Council of Senior Citizens. “Senior Citizens Month,” as it was first called, was celebrated in May of that year.

At the time, only 17 million Americans were 65 years or older. A third of them were living in poverty and very few programs were established to help them, according to the ACL.

Since then, every president has taken time to acknowledge the contributions of older Americans – particularly people who have defended our country.

And since then, the population of aging adults in America has grown exponentially. In 2019, the number of Americans 65 years or older was estimated at 54.1 million. That number continues to grow as 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day.

It’s more important than ever to acknowledge the contributions of older Americans. How will you celebrate Older Americans Month?

The Administration for Community Living has some great ideas to help neighborhoods tell stories and create events in observance of the month. Heart2Heart offers a number of home-based projects you could do as a family or a small group that would directly impact the older Americans in your community.

Next week, we’ll talk about the Older Americans Month theme: “Age My Way.”

Until then, ask an older American to tell you their story. It’s worth your time.

Juan Gallo
Juan Gallo is the CEO of Heart2Heart Outreach, where he oversees the mobilization of volunteers to provide hope, share love and restore purpose to the lives of the aging population across South Florida. He also serves as a local pastor and as an adjunct professor at Trinity International University, where he is teaching a course on diversity and aging. Juan has a master's degree in counseling and psychology and is a licensed mental health counselor intern.

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