May is Older American’s Month

older Americans MonthSpring is here and a perfect time to celebrate older adults with tips from the U.S. Administration on Aging. This year’s theme is “Aging Unbound.”

How Older American’s Month Began

According to the U.S. Administration on Aging, when Older Americans Month was established in 1963, only 17 million living Americans had reached their 65th birthday. About a third of older Americans lived in poverty, and there were few programs to meet their needs. Interest in older Americans and their concerns was growing. A meeting in April 1963 between President John F. Kennedy and members of the National Council of Senior Citizens led to designating May as “Senior Citizens Month,” the prelude to “Older Americans Month.”

Historically, 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 issued a formal proclamation during or before the month of May asking that the entire nation pay tribute in some way to older persons in their communities. Older Americans Month is celebrated across the country through ceremonies, events, fairs, and other such activities.

Stories build community and connect us (even if we can’t be physically together). Whether you’re a group of friends, a neighborhood community, or an organization, stories are a great way to learn about and engage with others. As you plan, remember that everyone has different interests, access to technology, and comfort levels. The best sharing activities are those where people feel encouraged and at ease.

Ideas to get you started from the Administration for Community Living

Arrange for older adults to share or read stories. Call a community center or group about a joint effort — perhaps they’d like older adults to share their experiences in a workshop. Alternatively, see if a local school would like to host a “Senior Day” where older adults speak to students or contact libraries about older adults reading to young children.

Arrange for local school students to interview older adults in the community and write short biographies. Plan a program in which the students read aloud their stories. Invite your local newspaper, blogger, or radio station to attend.

Use video chat technology to host a storytelling party. Select a theme or question and give each person five minutes to tell a story that relates to it. Check out this Great Questions list from StoryCorps for ideas.

Ask your social media followers to share their wisdom, tips, and stories online using a unique hashtag or by posting to a forum you manage. Be sure to provide guidance (e.g., length), what you’d most like to hear, and a contact person for questions.

Organize a selfie challenge on social media. Create a theme phrase (e.g., “Aging unbound means…”) and use a related hashtag (e.g., #OlderAmericansMonth). Ask community members to fill in the blank and take a photo holding a paper with the sentence, and then post on social media using your hashtag. You can even design a simple template with the phrase that can be printed out to make it easier for to join in.


A special OAM event is a great way to celebrate, share resources, and connect with community members. There are countless approaches to this kind of activity, many of which can be done virtually.

Ideas to get you started:

Organize a game night. You can choose games in advance or have everyone bring their favorite to share with the group. Create an inclusive environment by playing games for people of all ages and abilities. Prizes or awards can make the event even more fun.

Coordinate a musical event. Music can help people to connect, heal, feel joy, and more. Hire a band, let participants show off their musical talents, or just play songs from an app and let everyone have a chance to make requests. Consider organizing the event using a theme or genre.

Coordinate a class, workshop, or lecture on topics relevant to older adults. You can, for example, host a class on balance and strength to encourage maintaining independence. Or, try teaching community members something new – how to find local resources, how to engage through technology, or how to start a new career or hobby. If possible, have an older adult lead the workshop.

Host a fundraising event, like a community walk or bake-off, to benefit local programs or centers that serve older adults. No matter the format, be sure to promote the work of individuals and organizations that support older adults in your area. This is not only nice for those recognized but also creates awareness about available resources. For a fundraising event, raffles and contests work well to engage attendees.

Group Project

Celebrate and engage with your community by organizing a project where members can contribute individually before their work is combined to create the final masterpiece. This is a great way to produce something to showcase, either in person or online. Before selecting a project, consider polling your participants to see where their talents and interests lie.

Ideas to get you started:

Make a physical or virtual bulletin board with photos, jokes, quotes, or good news. This project is great in combination with the selfie challenge idea shared above. Whether online or in person, printouts can be posted to the board.

Plant a community garden of flowers or produce. Alternatively, provide participants with seeds and a pot to plant them in at home. Later, collect all the potted plants and display them together as one large container garden.
Design a mosaic art project, painted rock garden, or mural where each participant gets a turn to add their touch. Don’t have a space that can be permanently altered? Use canvases instead. Search “mini canvas collage” to spark your creativity.

Consider any of the above ideas as part one of a celebration plan. Continue or follow up with events in September is Healthy Aging® Month.

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