Having turned 65 during the summer of 2015, that milestone and this month of May bring a newly found significance to my life and worldview. I, too, feel honored to be included in the national observance of May as “Older Americans Month,” making me a part of what Muriel Bowser, Mayor, District of Columbia, calls America’s “Living Treasures” — those Americans 65 and older who have contributed so much to our society.
It was at the May 2, 2016 Board meeting that the Sampson County Commissioners adopted a resolution proclaiming May as Older Americans Month in Sampson County. According to the resolution, “Older Americans Month is a time for acknowledging the contributions that past and present older persons have made to our country. “
The 2016 theme is “Blaze a Trail,” and in just a few days, on Thursday, May 26, the Sampson County’s Aging Department will host its Annual Older Americans Month observance at the Garland Senior Center, located at 91 N. Church Ave., in Garland, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., celebrating the lives of those who have blazed a trail, with food, fun, fellowship and live entertainment.
As a matter of fact, this is the 53rd anniversary of Older Americans Month, with President Kennedy establishing the first Senior Citizens Month in 1963, as part of his Administration’s efforts to better address the needs and concerns of older Americans. Later, in 1980 President Carter changed the name of the observance to “Older Americans Month.”
When President Obama issued his May 2016 presidential proclamation, he stated, “This month, we celebrate our Nation’s older citizens, and we show our appreciation for all they have done to enrich our communities and drive America forward.” He further declared, “We must maximize the contributions of our seniors and ensure they have the resources and support they need to thrive and to keep shaping the future of the country they love.”
Every year in our country, older Americans donate their time, effort and money to help make our community a better place to live, still “blazing a trail” for future generations of Americans. Indeed, older Americans are an important part of the fabric of our society. Even though there are many factors that affect aging including gender, race, economic status and education, we are living longer and better than ever, making up a growing part of the “longevity economy” which expands economic activity, impacting the entire society in a positive way.
A major challenge for us as a nation is to remove all barriers to aging and to make sure all older Americans are allowed to retire and live with dignity and respect.
To my fellow older Americans, let’s continue to seek opportunities to help contribute to the general welfare of our communities, sharing our many gifts and talents to allow others to benefit from our collective knowledge, wisdom and experiences.
Fellow older Americans, let’s encourage each other to keep moving, to stay socially engaged and involved in the various aspects of our community life. I know there are times we feel tired and ready to quit. Just keep moving.
Larry Sutton is a retired teacher from Clinton High School.