As you tear away April from your calendar you will notice that May, like its 11 siblings, has various days designated by some organization, government or group for recognition. May highlights Law Day, Loyalty Day, the National Day of Prayer and Memorial Day. Additionally, Mexican Americans along with teachers, mothers, peace officers, and our armed forces, have their own special date.
May is the month of my birth along with President Harry S, Truman.
Since 1963, the Administration on Aging has declared the entire month as Senior Citizens Month. President Jimmy Carter had it changed to its current traditional name, Older Americans Month. Older Americans Month acknowledges the contributions of past and current older persons to our country, in particular those who defended our country, including the 9.6 million living veterans 65 and older.
In 1963 only 17 million living Americans had reached their 65th birthdays. The latest U.S. Census Bureau indicate that number has climbed to 43.1 million with a projection of 92 million by 2060.
In May, the Administration for Community Living plans to emphasize safety with the slogan “Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow” because unintentional injuries result in at least 6 million medically treated injuries and more than 30,000 deaths every year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that about 80 percent of older adults have one chronic condition, and 50 percent have at least two infectious diseases. Heart disease, and not Alzheimer’s disease, is the number one cause of death among older Americans.
The labor force still has 21.3 percent 65 and older still working (94.3 million full time) yet 3.9 million, or 9 percent, live in poverty. Further, 25.3 percent earned a bachelor’s degree or higher while 82.6 percent completed high school or higher.
The saying “respect your elders” has never been more meaningful. It would behoove you in May, and all year long, to spend some time with the seniors in your life. Ask about their experiences and what it was like when they were children. Visit a nursing home or go for a walk with a grandparent or asked them about this game they play called “bingo” or why most enjoy casinos and traveling.
The Census Bureau projects that in 2056 the population 65 and older would outnumber people younger than 18, a national first. Does that mean we will be celebrating “Older Americans Year?” I hope not.
I give you President John Adams’ toast: Independence forever.
Jerry Plantz lives in Lee’s Summit. His website is at www.Jerryplantz.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.