Director Kicks Off Older Americans Month in Missouri

Director Kicks Off Older Americans Month in Missouri

Today Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Director Jane Drummond kicks off Older Americans Month with four stories of Missouri’s astonishing seniors and the communities that work to support them.

“These stories demonstrate that seniors are breaking out of stereotypes and redefining their role in society,” Drummond said. “For instance, in one story, a paralyzed older man rekindles his dream to farm despite incredible odds and with help from a unique initiative. In another, a wave of older Asian immigrants shows it’s never too late to pull up stakes and start over. In still another, a community rallies together to prevent seniors from physically falling down. Falls can be deadly for older adults and are the leading cause of death from injury among people 65 and older.”

Older Americans Month originated with a presidential proclamation by John F. Kennedy in May 1963. U.S. presidents ever since then have proclaimed May 1 through May 31 as a time to honor and pay homage to older people, whose ranks are growing due to the aging of 78 million baby boomers who began turning 60 two years ago. The month is celebrated with ceremonies, events and fairs nationwide. This year’s theme is “Working Together for Strong, Healthy and Supportive Communities.”

Americans are living a lot longer than they did when President Kennedy first proclaimed May to be Senior Citizens Month. In 1963, only 17 million people reached the age of 65 years. Now 37.3 million people are over 65, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Missouri and our nation will benefit in many ways from a larger population of older adults,” Drummond said. “Older adults support our society by providing millions of hours of volunteer, community and civic service through formal organizations and a variety of informal arrangements. They enhance our communities and personal lives by sharing and transferring knowledge of cultures, values and life experiences among generations.”

One can also find fascinating facts about older adults on the department’s Web site throughout May. Do you know, for instance, what a “Ruppie” is, or the top entertainment spot for retirees? These facts, and the stories, appear on the department’s Web site, http://www.dhss.mo.gov. To view, look for the blue and orange Older Americans Month 2008 logo, and then click.