Family Life: Older Americans Month can be celebrated by all ages

Family Life: Older Americans Month can be celebrated by all ages

By Chelsey Byers/University of Illinois Extension

May is Older Americans Month — a time when we pay tribute to older people across the country. This tradition dates back to 1963, when President John F. Kennedy designated May as "Senior Citizens Month" to honor the legacies and ongoing contributions of older Americans. Seventeen years later, in 1980, President Jimmy Carter changed the name to "Older Americans Month."

According to AARP, 8,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day. They began turning 65 in 2011 and will continue to until 2030, reaching 71.5 million. Both the baby boomers and the later radio generation are living longer and are more active.

Think about this year's theme of "Safe Today, Healthy Tomorrow" for a moment. What does that mean for you, your parents or even your grandparents, depending on your age?

I teach many community programs to people in the 50+ age group. If I asked them what is one wish they have as they grow older, I believe that many would answer to remain as active and independent as possible as they get older. There are many proactive ways that individuals can work towards this goal mentally and physically.

Talk to your doctor about health and lifestyle changes that could be beneficial to maintaining or improving your health. Engage your brain everyday to keep it active. Become a lifelong learner. Try new things and new experiences, challenge yourself with games, activities, learning a new skill or even challenging your current skill level. Our brains want to be stimulated.

You may have heard the saying "you can't teach an old dog new tricks," but that is not true. You can learn new things at any age. It may, however, take a little more effort and time. Here are some amazing examples of people who tried new adventures in their later years:

— Colonel Harlan Sanders started his Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurant chain at 65.

— Peter Roget published Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases at age 73.

— Laura Ingalls Wilder didn't publish her first book until she was 65.

— Grandma Moses painted her first canvas at 76.

To quote George Carlin, "So far, this is the oldest I've been," and "Be alive while you are alive."

Embrace Older Americans Month and do something to promote healthy aging, whether you are 25 or 85. Each of us is aging every day; we need to invest in our brains and our bodies.

The University of Illinois Extension offers many ways people can get involved and stay engaged at any age. We have classes offered in the communities aimed at making life better, healthier, safer and more profitable for individuals, families and communities. We also have wonderful volunteer programs that enhance the communities we serve.

For information on upcoming Extension programs, visit To learn more about Older Americans Month, visit

For more information on family-life-related topics, visit or contact Chelsey Byers at 333-7672 or

Sections (1):Living
Topics (1):People