This brief history of Older Americans Month (OAM) is taken from: http://www.aoa.gov. It is short but gives a good overview.
Older Americans Month
History of Older Americans Month
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 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.
Past Older Americans Month Themes
- 1978 - Older Americans and the Family
- 1984 - Health: Make it Last a Lifetime
- 1985 - Help Yourself to Independence
- 1986 - Plan on Living the Rest of Your Life
- 1992 - Community Action Begins with You: Help Older Americans Help Themselves
- 1993 - No theme selected (proclamation signed on May 25, 1993)
- 1994 - Aging: An Experience of a Lifetime
- 1995 - Aging: Generations of Experience
- 1996 - Aging: A Lifetime Opportunity
- 1997 - Caregiving: Compassion in Action
- 1998 - Living Longer, Growing Stronger in America
- 1999 - Honor the Past, Imagine the Future: Towards a Society for All Ages
- 2000 - In the New Century. . . . The Future is Aging
- 2001 - The Many Faces of Aging
- 2002 - America: "A Community for all Ages"
- 2003 - “What We Do Makes A Difference.”
- 2004 - “Aging Well, Living Well”
- 2005 - Celebrate Long-term Living
The theme for Older Americans Month 2006 is "Choices For Independence".
The Administration on Aging offers some suggestions on celebrating OAM which I will list first than present our own list of events for you to consider during the month.
AOA event ideas include:
* Organize a senior festival or fair. Whether it is 1 day or an entire week, festivals are often popular events and can be adapted to various settings such as a community center, gym, church, library meeting room, or health care facility. Invite commercial and health care-related vendors and ask them to host educational seminars or fun activities targeting seniors.
* Set up an OAM celebration table at a popular shopping center and staff it with organization representatives who can answer questions about programs and services. Many seniors can be found strolling through shopping malls and, best of all, information tables can be staffed in any type of weather.
* Sponsor a Choices for Independence walk. Ask a local newscaster, elected official, or community leader to serve as a spokesperson and contact local businesses about sponsorship opportunities or incentive donations.
* Conduct a series of healthy weight and nutrition sessions and offer incentives for graduates. Incentives can be as simple as a certificate or as elaborate as gifts and a recognition ceremony.
* Organize an intergenerational event. Sponsor a dance or other activity that provides an opportunity for cross-generational exchange. Consider approaching other aging services organizations about partnering or sharing responsibilities.
* Adopt a local garden. Find a public garden that is available for groups to maintain and give older adults a workout in the process. Even better, grow fruits and vegetables and use them in a tasty dish.
* Plan a senior picnic. Everyone loves a cookout during the warm days in the spring. Find a local park or recreation center and serve grilled chicken, vegetables, and fresh salads. Don’t forget to involve the community. Ask local businesses to donate T-shirts, visors, and food.
Some of the above ideas require a lot of pre-planning and technically, should have already been addressed. None are impossible to accomplish in a short time frame but they will require a heavy duty commitment on the organizer's part.
As an alternative, S2S suggests you take the easy way to learn what events are happening in your area centering on OAM. Contact your county's Senior Center/Senior Services. I bet they have a bulletin with all the month's activities already printed up and ready just for you.
Now, if you still want to be creative, here are some easy, fun and doable ideas you can do without a lot of preparation.
1. May is the home of Mother's Day (May 14th) - If we have to actually lay out a suggestion here, well, I don't know what to say...
2. May is also the home of Armed Forces Day (May 20th) - We believe your local chapter of the VFW, DAR, etc. already has an event scheduled for that particular day. Why not contact the Chapter President and suggest they do a tie-in activity revolving around OAM.
3. May hosts Memorial Day (May 30th but observed on May 29th) - Again piggy back on the already planned activities or, change the name to Memory Day, invite friends and family and talk about the "good ole days" around a "bring your own dish" meal.
4. August 1st is Friendship Day. Move it to a day you like in May and like #3, gather a group of friends for camaraderie, maybe even some general B.S. and a few drinks of whatever strength.
5. OK, Christmas is celebrated on December 25th. We all know that. But why not make a selected day in May Christmas for some local senior shut-ins?
6. Good Friday was celebrated on April 14th this year but, heck, pick a Friday or two in May make it a "good" Friday for seniors in a local hospital, VA facility, or even the county lock up. America does have incarcerated seniors and some never get a visit or a letter or card from anyone on the outside.
7. The Washoe County, NV Senior Citizen Centers have physical fitness programs for any senior who wishes to participate. Why not organize say a 30 minute walk on a Saturday in your local park?
8. Our local malls allow people to walk their aisles before the stores open. Organize a "for seniors" only walking club and walk the mall before the crowds arrive.
9. My mother was a good cook but two dishes were her trademark. Golambki and pierogi, 2 Polish dishes, were to die for. You walked away from her table full and with an eruction loud enough for the world to hear. Teach someone your trademark culinary delights.
10. Our downtown park provides free entertainment. Not only is the entertainment free but so is the Truckee River which borders it on the north. If you have a park even closely resembling ours, why not dip your toes in the water, listen to the music and watch the street entertainers?
11. One of the best hot dogs in Reno is sold by a vendor at the park. He's there 7 days a week and loves his trade. Maybe a picnic centered around whatever faire is sold at your park on a Saturday morning would be hugely enjoyable.
12. Call a friend you haven't spoken to in awhile. One call results in a call back which turns into a renewed friendship.
13. Gather a group of your friends and record a "good ole days" bull session on your cam corder and send the DVD to friends who live outside the area.
14. Seniors love animals. Volunteer at the local animal shelter and help the critters.
15. Volunteer to answer the phone and do administrative tasks at your local helping hand agencies like the Alzheimer's Association, Heart Association, etc. This free ups the staff for the detailed work.
16. Our local hospitals have seniors manning the information booths. This is a good way to help others.
17. Contact your local TV stations and ask them to run a piece at the end of each morning and evening newscasts featuring you and a few friends talking about OAM. Try to get 6 people so they have 3 different segments.
18. If you have a local radio personality, ask him/her to run an audio piece about OAM in the last minute of the show. Volunteer to be the voice on tape.
19. Remind the local newspaper(s) about OAM and suggest they go to http://www.aoa.gov for related stories. Better yet, provide them with a local angle.
20. Volunteer to read to shut ins at local retirement and/or nursing homes. If these homes allow pets and you feel comfortable bringing your dog or cat, the residents may just love to see them.
21. Persuade your local supermarket to help in a canned food drive for the homeless shelters and soup kitchens in your area. Seniors do frequent these places.
22. Go to your city council and county board of supervisors/commissioner meetings and place your name on the public comment section. These bodies usually provide 3 minutes to anyone who has something to say. The beauty is it is at the end of the meeting and almost all of these meetings are televised on the local cable channel. Use your 3 minutes to remind the politicians and viewers about OAM.
23. Our county library has a huge meeting room open to patrons for meetings and gatherings. Schedule a day and invite every senior you know to show up with their lunch for a grand get together.
24. Our Senior Citizen Center provides subsidized lunches but not every senior can afford to eat there every day. Prepay for 10 meals and tell the staff to give them away to those most neediest. Guaranteed it will be done to your orders.
25. Hold a yard sale with materials and goods donated by seniors. Use the proceeds to help a local senior oriented program or simply split the proceeds among the donors.
26. Designate a day as "So and So's" day and let her/him decide on the day's agenda and activities. Wouldn't she or he be surprised?
27. Pick one day in which you will smile and be nice no matter what happens. Greet everyone you see with a smile and a warm hello. Who knows, it may become a natural for you. And, make it a point not to spread unsubstantiated "news" you hear during the day as well.
28. If your church has an activity planned for OAM, invite two or three friends who are not members so they too can enjoy the festivities. Emphasize proselytization is not on the menu. If nothing is on the calendar, ask the preacher/priest/rabbi to include something.
29. Invite some friends over for a "remember the old days" party and designate specific dishes for each person. Or, make it food specific like desert or salad or whatever you like.
30. Start a pen pal club that writes to the troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Bosnia. Your local National Guard Armory is a good starting place for help.
31. On the same note, while the troops eat decently, they don't enjoy the spices they had at home. Organize a spice chest and collect those home flavors the troops love and send them across the pond.
32. Your local civic clubs hold weekly meetings. The Lions, Rotary, Kiwanis, etc. all are community oriented. Contact the local chapter presidents and suggest they make one of their May meetings an OAM meeting.
33. Be creative, use your imagination and come up with something that is area specific. Let your imagination run wild and then do it. What the heck, the worse that could happenis you make the day brighter for some senior.
OK, these are only suggestions, but you never know, they could turn into something worthwhile in your community. The idea is to publicize and remember OAM.
If you have any suggestions, write me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear what is happening in your locale.