Living today for a better tomorrow

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May is Older Americans Month

By The Staff

The year was 1963. Young, charismatic John F. Kennedy was President, a group of shaggy-haired musicians called the Beatles were taking Britain by storm, and the Rolling Stones were trying to win over the hearts of teenage girls. The economy was booming; the cost of a first class postage stamp was four cents and a gallon of gas cost a whopping 30 cents a gallon!

In 1963, with the average life expectancy of 69 years, only 17 million living Americans had reached their 65th birthday. Even with these demographic numbers, 46-year-old President Kennedy had the wisdom to realize that through growing technology and medical advances, Americans would continue to live much longer.

Ironically, it was this young President who would have the foresight to meet and plan for the future of the country's older citizens. In April 1963, the President worked with the National Council of Senior Citizens, to begin circulating national interest in senior citizens and the programs that could be of benefit to them. This meeting also served as a prelude to designating May as "Senior Citizens Month", later to be known as "Older Americans Month." 

Unfortunately, later that same year in November, President Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. While his life and presidency were dramatically cut short by the assailant, his concern for older citizens paved the way to today's tributes and recognitions to them.

Historically, May and 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 Kennedy has continued this tradition by asking the entire nation to pay tribute in some way to older persons in our communities. 

Today, our country finds over 78 million baby boomers turning 60, and the interest to find ways to support our aging population is accelerating.  President Kennedy's future thinking was correct: Americans are living longer and staying healthier than ever before. It seems appropriate that the theme for this year's Older Americans Month is "Living Today for a Better Tomorrow". As our life expectancy grows, so do our choices and our consequences, which will impact not only the seniors and boomers, but also those generations who will come after them.

The U.S. Administration on Aging and its National Aging Services Network support many successful programs throughout the country, and here in our local communities, which help older adults live better today and in the future. These programs keep people independent and in the home setting of their choice. Many Home and Community-Based Services will assist to keep them at home, instead of long-term care facilities, and will also provide assistance to their family caregivers. These programs encourage older people to remain active and make choices to give the opportunity to live today and have a better tomorrow.

Older Americans Month gives the community a time to celebrate, recognize and give back to the contributions of our senior citizens. Many activities are planned in our communities and across the nation to help spotlight the programs and services available to older Americans and their families. Locally, the Lincoln Trail Service Providers will host "Senior Celebration 2009" on Thursday, May 21, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., at Pritchard Community Center in Elizabethtown. The day will focus on the awareness of healthy living, its many choices, and the rewards a healthy lifestyle can bring. Health education including better sleep habits, and maintaining and preventing diabetes will be offered. Anyone age 60 and over is invited to attend the annual event, which includes lunch, exhibits, entertainment, bingo, and door prizes. Over 500 people from Hardin and surrounding counties are expected to attend.

Editor's note: Monica Ruehling is the Family Caregiver Program Coordinator for the Lincoln Trail Area Agency on Aging. She can be reached at (270) 769-2393, 1-800-264-0393 or by email at monica@ltadd.org.