In May we honor a long list of celebrations: May Day, Mother's Day, Cinco de Mayo, V-E Day, Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day. It's also Older Americans Month formerly known as "Senior Citizens Month." It's a 60's thing that most people don't think much about today. Afterall, many Boomers don't resonate with the term "senior citizen" or consider themselves "older." When president John F Kennedy established Senior Citizens Month, intending to call attention to the needs of aging Americans, 17 million were over 60 and Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act didn't exist. Today individuals over 65 are the fastest growing demographic currently numbering 45 million. "Get Into The Act" is the theme of 2015 Older Americans Month --what act are you into?
If you're into politics, and many Boomers are, then you probably know that acts from the 60's aren't doing so well. Medicare, which was the product of new awareness about the needs of Americans over 65, is facing opposition from powerful elected officials just fifty years later. The Voting Rights act of '65 was largely disabled in a Supreme Court decision two years ago resulting in new restrictions on voters. The Older Americans Act that created Federal and local nutritional support, family caregiving aid, and job training for older Americans, weakened over the years, lapsed in 2011, and subsequently failed reauthorization efforts. This year it's up for reauthorization once again. Are you into that Act? It could use your support.
No time or inclination for politics? Maybe you're invested in an encore act. If so, you're in good company. Forbes estimates 4.5 million Boomers are already exploring encore careers that generate new income and civic or personal revival through creative, meaningful workpaths. Many encore professionals identify as social entrepreneurs- business people cultivating hope and change by tackling social problems. The Purpose Prize, established in 2005, honors people over the age of 60 who are devoting their lives and skills to affect social good. Make a difference and an income? That's a winning combination. This is beyond a "Second Career"--this is an encore.
Or, perhaps, you've postponed your encore because you're occupied with the delicate act of balancing your own health care with that of a family member or close friend. 1 in 5 women between the ages of 45 and 74 are caregiving an aging parent. 1 in 7 are "sandwiched" and provide financial support to a parent and a grown child. 80% of Boomers report stress related to caregiving parents, spouses or children. Half of Boomers 55-64 find it necessary to remember to take their own cardiovascular drugs and 1 in 5 are coping with diabetes. Caregiving, as loving and necessary as it is, stresses finances and health and can have long term impacts. If that balancing act is how you're spending time and energy-----you're not alone.
Hopefully we're all into the act of enjoying life. Infamously unprepared for retirement we're great at planning for vacations. Travel companies realize that we may need to work more than previous generations because of losses in the market or just lower lifetime wages so they're accommodating our exploring spirits by adjusting their offerings to our circumstance. When we're home surveys show that most of us spend time watching TV, consuming news or talk radio, reading blogs and entertainment online, or enjoying a good book.
No matter what act we're into we can be sure that the acts of the 60's have had an influence in who we are today. As we remember many things in May--our mothers, our battles, our pride and the men and women who served this country--- we might also remember the remarks of John F Kennedy. "But today's older population, and tomorrow's senior citizens, not only expect to live half again as long but with a new vibrancy and usefulness in these later years," he stated in October 1960. "They expect, and intend to make it come true that the years of retirement shall be healthy and creative years; that accumulated wisdom and experience shall lead to fuller self-development and broader social contributions - perhaps greater than in any other period of life," he predicted while endorsing "an important new field" he called "A Positive Response to the Challenge of Aging." Thanks to his vision 55 years ago that's the reality many of us enjoy today. It's a good reason to care about Older Americans Month and the Act it inspired.