In April 1963, a meeting between President John F. Kennedy and members of the National Council of Senior Citizens resulted in May being declared “Senior Citizens Month,” which eventually became “Older Americans Month.”
While we celebrate and honor our seniors all year, May is “their” month for even more special recognition, starting at the White House. Every U.S. president since Kennedy has issued a formal proclamation before or during the month of May asking that the entire nation pay tribute in some way to older persons in their communities.
When Older Americans Month (OAM) was established in 1963, only 17 million Americans had reached their 65th birthday, about a third lived in poverty and there were few programs to meet their needs, according to the HHS’s Administration for Community Living (ACL), which includes the Administration on Aging.
The senior population has increased significantly since 1963, which is the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation. The ACL’s 2019 Profile of Older Americans, which was published in May 2020, found that the senior population — those over 65 years of age — increased from 38.8 million in 2008 to 52.4 million in 2018, and is projected to reach 94.7 million in 2060.
The study also found that 36% of Baby Boomers are over 65. Since we classify senior adults as those over the age of 60, our percentages might be slightly higher.
Almost 20 years after the OAM was established, the Elizabeth Munday Senior Center opened in 1982 in the former Lee Elementary School building, where we still reside.
In 1997, the Munday Center was awarded a competitive contract to administer the Federal Title III Older American’s Act “Senior Center Support Services” through GRADD.
This created our programming, which includes nutrition, exercise, social interaction and engagement, support with resources, transportation, visits, and phone calls, and continues today.
OAM’s 2021 theme is Communities of Strength, which is so fitting for what we strive for at the Senior Community Center … to provide activities and opportunities for seniors to strengthen their body, mind and soul.
And while we have been limited in the past 14 months, we have tried to find new and creative ways to strengthen our senior community.
In addition to Meals on Wheels, which is still serving between 500-600 seniors, we are posting videos on our Facebook page for different exercises, stretches and activities that can be done at home.
For those that aren’t online, we also regularly distribute paper copies of these activities through our five nutrition sites, where seniors can pick up lunch, Monday through Friday, and in our bi-monthly newsletter.
Tiffanye Johnson, our program manager, and her staff are always available to provide resources and/or talk to seniors and their families about how we can help. Contact her if you want to receive the newsletter.
For our Daviess County senior community, we celebrated Older Americans Month on Wednesday with music, food, parking lot bingo, blood pressure clinic and lots of prizes for around 40 who attended during the four-hour event. In neighboring counties, the local senior center has activities planned for their folks throughout. If you know seniors living in Hancock, Ohio, McLean, or Henderson counties, make sure they’re aware of local OAM events.
Another way we are strengthening our senior community is to start hosting fundraisers. Our first one since the pandemic will be a yard sale on Saturday, June 5 on our massive green space on West 2nd Street.
The purpose is to sell some of our own items that we’ve discovered in our spring cleaning, but to also provide space for other organizations and/or individuals to have their own mini-fundraiser.
Table space is $25 for a 10x10 space or $40 for a 10x20. We are hoping many will take advantage of this opportunity. Please contact us at 270-687-4640 to register. We are also accepting donations for the yard sale at the Senior Center. All proceeds will go towards programs and activities for our seniors.
Many of you are ready to get back to the Senior Center and we are, too! We are receiving calls daily asking when the Senior Center will open.
We don’t have a definitive answer yet, but are in regular contact with officials with GRADD and in Frankfort regarding guidance and guidelines to provide a safe and healthy experience for reopening.
Hopefully, we will have an announcement very soon … we are anxious to get folks back.
Until then, happy Older Americans Month to those who are the very foundation of our community!
Becky Barnhart is executive director of the Senior Community Center.