Older Americans Month celebrates the contributions of senior citizens while raising awareness about important issues affecting older people. Here’s why it’s so important.
Older Americans Month happens every May. It is a time to reflect on the contributions of older people in our country, their experiences, and the lessons we can learn from them. It is also an opportunity to examine the issues that continue to affect them, such as ageism in the workplace and elder abuse.
When did Older Americans Month start?
President John F. Kennedy laid the groundwork for this event. In 1963, after growing concerns about seniors living in poverty, Kennedy declared May Senior Citizens Month. And in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson rebranded the event as Older Americans Month.
Who was most instrumental in pioneering Older Americans Month?
Both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson played instrumental roles in pioneering Older Americans Month. It was Kennedy’s idea to raise awareness about the plight of older Americans through Senior Citizens Month. But it was Lyndon who rebranded the month to Older Americans Month while also passing the Older Americans Act in 1965, which brought several benefits for the elderly.
Why was it brought in?
Older Americans Month was introduced to raise awareness about the issues faced by senior citizens in America at the time. There were not many social programs available for elderly citizens in the early 60s. By the time JFK introduced this event, nearly a third of Americans over 65 lived in poverty.
Why AgeGroup believes in Older Americans Month
Nearly 60 years after Older Americans Month was first introduced, older Americans continue to grapple with social and economic issues. Agism in the workplace leaves many older Americans financially worse off as they’re passed over for promotions or not hired in the first place. Despite legislation like the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, tens of thousands of workplace age discrimination claims are filed each year. Companies have paid out more than $91 million in claims since the act was first introduced.
Older people face difficulties in other aspects of their lives too. Shocking statistics reveal that at least 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 65 has suffered from elder abuse. Unfortunately, most elder abuse goes unreported, with estimates suggesting only 1 in 24 elder abuse cases are reported to the authorities. This means the actual number of victims could be much higher.
Older Americans Month aims to raise awareness about these serious issues that can affect older people financially, socially, and mentally. Authorities and campaign groups can develop and put appropriate legislation and enforcement mechanisms in place by raising awareness and campaigning. However, it’s vital that this happens throughout the year and isn’t just a focus during May.
Finally, we should celebrate older Americans as they deserve to be. They have lived long lives contributing to society and the economy. We should not ignore these contributions. They also have valuable lessons to pass on, and society would do well to listen rather than ignore our seniors.
For these reasons and many others, we believe Older Americans Month is an important event with a critical role in shaping attitudes towards older people.