Older Americans Month


By Melissa Martin



Just what we need—an entire month to remind us of aging.

Yea. Let’s celebrate together. Gray hair. Thinning hair. No hair. Wrinkling skin. Brown age spots. Ringing in ears. Stiff joints. Leaky bladders. Sagging in the front and sagging in the back. Whoopee. Let’s have a party with oatmeal and prune juice. We can play Pin the Girdle on the Donkey. Or Musical Geriatric Chairs. Maybe binge-watch The Golden Girls.

Every May, the Administration for Community Living leads the nation’s observance of Older Americans Month (OAM). The 2019 theme, Connect, Create, Contribute, encourages older adults and their communities to: Connect with friends, family, and services that support participation. Create by engaging in activities that promote learning, health, and personal enrichment. Contribute time, talent, and life experience to benefit others. All this sounds like too much effort to me.

I want to lounge on a serene beach without any kids or dogs. A pina colada in one hand and chocolate in the other. After dinner, the group of grannies can hobble to the mall and harass teenagers. And later explore the nightlife. Salsa for seniors—only no dance-dipping. The geezers in golf pants might drop us.

OAM History

Led by the Administration for Community Living (ACL) each May, OAM provides resources to help older Americans stay healthy and independent, and resources to help communities support and celebrate their diversity.

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.”

I guess Older Americans Month gives me an opportunity to talk to my daughter about what type of nursing home I want in the future. Or to discuss a backyard mother-in-law apartment with my son-in-law. Wallykazam! I want a Jacuzzi and a jumble inflatable pink flamingo. How about a decorated golf cart to drive around the neighborhood? And seniors’ karaoke every weekend with gal pals. Maybe oldster Pictionary as well. And Tai Chi in my pajamas on the front lawn every morning.

Lots of Old People

About one in every seven, or 15 percent, of the population is an older American. Persons reaching age 65 have an average life expectancy of an additional 19 years (20 years for females and 18 years for males). There were 81,896 persons age 100 and over in 2016. Older women outnumber older men at 28 million older women to 22 million older men. Principal sources of data for the Profile are the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Center for Health Statistics, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Mamma mia!

The year 2030 marks an important demographic turning point in U.S. history according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 National Population Projections. By 2030, all baby boomers will be older than age 65. Caramba!

“There are six myths about old age: 1. That it’s a disease, a disaster. 2. That we are mindless. 3. That we are sexless. 4. That we are useless. 5. That we are powerless. 6. That we are all alike.” —Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Gray Panthers movement.

But seriously, youngsters need to spend time listening to the stories of parents, grandparents, and senior citizens before their time of earth is no more. I would give an organ to have just one more year with my mother. I would make a long list of all the loving things she did and verbally tell her. Thank you for sewing an Easter outfit for me every year. Thank you for Christmas dolls. Thank you for cooking breakfast every morning and dinner every night. Thank you for attending my school events. Thank you for all the sacrifices you made.

Resources for Seniors

Go4Life, an exercise and physical activity campaign from the National Institute on Aging at NIH, is designed to help seniors fit exercise and physical activity into daily life. wwwgo4life.nia.nih.gov/. I’ll skip the oldster workout videos and go to lunch with my not-getting-any-younger gal friends. And eat cake.

Visit the OAM website for ideas and inspiration, and follow ACL on Twitter and Facebook. Or pack a small suitcase and drop in on your adult children. “Hi kids! I’ll be staying for a month or two. What’s on the fun agenda?”

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By Melissa Martin

Reach:Melissa Martin, Ph.D, is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in Scioto County. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com. Contact her at melissamcolumnist@gmail.com.

Reach:Melissa Martin, Ph.D, is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in Scioto County. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com. Contact her at melissamcolumnist@gmail.com.