May is Older Americans Month, a time dedicated to acknowledging the hard work and contributions of seniors in our communities. However, it is often overshadowed by the end of the school year, beginning of summer, and other holidays. This year, don’t take Older Americans Month for granted! Instead, celebrate your aging loved ones and the seniors in your community. Here are some ideas to help you acknowledge and embrace Older Americans Month.
History of Older Americans Month
Older Americans Month started as Senior Citizens Month in 1963 during the administration of President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy met with the National Council of Senior Citizens to discuss the growing needs of the senior population of the United States, which was approximately 17 million individuals then. One-third of these seniors lived in poverty, and the country lacked supporting programs to help them. Senior Citizens Month was established to bring attention to the problems facing seniors and to honor the contributions of older adults.
However, the name was changed in 1965 when President Lyndon B. Johnson passed the Older Americans Act. This act also established the Administration on Aging, a federal agency dedicated to addressing the unmet needs of America’s seniors. It also included nutrition programs, transportation assistance, and federally funded programs to aid seniors. This act paved the way for Medicare and other federal programs aimed at assisting seniors.
Every president since President Kennedy has issued a formal proclamation for Older Americans Month around the month of May. Today, the Administration on Aging and the Administration of Community Living partner to establish a theme for Older Americans Month and provide promotional materials, resources, activities, and other materials to help raise awareness of senior needs.
Theme for Older Americans Month 2022
The theme for 2022 is Age My Way. This theme acknowledges that there are many ways for seniors to age, and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to do it. This theme also encourages adults of all ages to consider how they want to age. Here are some common things they ask everyone to consider:
- Planning: Think about what you will need and want in the future, from home and community-based services to community activities that interest you.
- Engagement: Remain involved and contribute to your community through work, volunteer, and/or civic participation opportunities.
- Access: Make home improvements and modifications, use assistive technologies, and customize supports to help you better age in place.
- Connection: Maintain social activities and relationships to combat social isolation and stay connected to your community.
Activities to Celebrate Older Americans Month
There are many ways that you can acknowledge the seniors in your community and help make the month of May special for them. Here are just a few ideas to help you celebrate Older Americans Month.
Seniors have a wealth of experiences that can help you learn and grow. They can also be great entertainment and educational as you learn what life was like just a few decades ago. Speak with the aging members of your family or reminisce with seniors at a local senior center. Reminiscing about the past actually has many positive effects on seniors, too.
As you listen to these stories, try to capture them for future generations — as the individual permits, of course. You can record sound clips, videos, or jot down notes. Take pictures with the senior. Social media is a great place to share a senior’s story with others.
If you need something to get a senior talking, try starting with these questions.
Do Something Fun
Everyone loves to have a good time — and seniors are no different! Help them feel special by hosting an event or activity specifically for them. Here are some ideas:
- Plan a dinner with your loved one’s favorite foods. You can also take them out to eat at a favorite restaurant.
- Coordinate a game night with seniors you know. This brings everyone together for some fun. You can even organize awards and prizes.
- Organize a class or workshop for older adults. You can teach them how to use their smartphone, words in another language, how to craft something, etc. You could have another older adult teach the class, too.
- Throw a party! Put on dance music from decades past and encourage everyone to have a good time socializing and dancing.
Volunteer in Your Community
Senior living facilities and community centers are always looking for volunteers. It could be delivering meals, helping to clean, or just visiting with the seniors. Your volunteer time will be appreciated by the staff and by the seniors they serve.
You can always look for volunteer opportunities in your circle of friends and acquaintances. Perhaps there is a senior who struggles to keep up with their lawn and garden. Or maybe there is an elderly person at church who needs rides to the grocery store every now and then. These small acts of kindness can make a senior’s day.
Host a Fundraiser
Facebook and other social media platforms make it easy to raise money online for a charity of your choice. This is an easy way to raise funds — without knocking on doors or soliciting donations. However, you can always host an old-fashioned bake sale, walk-a-thon, garage sale, or other event to benefit seniors. Donate the proceeds to a local or national organization focused on senior needs.
If you’re looking for fundraiser ideas, check out Close the Gap in Senior Care. This organization is a non-profit started by Caring Senior Service in 2021. They have an initiative to raise money for grab bars, simple safety devices to reduce falls at home.
Teach Seniors Their Options to Age Their Way
Seniors today have more options for aging than ever before! Staying with family or moving into an assisted living facility aren’t their only options. However, some seniors may not know what choices they have when it comes to deciding how and where they want to age.
One thing you can do is to help seniors understand the options they have — aging at home, assisted living, independent living, nursing home, hospice, living with family, 55+ communities, etc. There are a number of different options available for every stage and preference during the aging process.
Connect with your local Caring Senior Service, and we would be happy to help you teach seniors in your community more about the options they have to age how they desire.