The month of May is recognized nationally as Older Americans Month, a time when we acknowledge the vast contributions older adults make to their families, communities and the nation. Older Americans Month officially came into being with Proclamation 3527, which President John F. Kennedy issued in 1963. Proclaiming the month of May to be Senior Citizens Month, the President called older Americans "...a great national resource of skills, wisdom and experience upon which much of our nation's progress has been built...older Americans continue to enrich our daily lives and provide counsel and leadership." At that time, 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.
Today, the U.S. is at the start of a tremendous demographic shift. Beginning in 2011, the first of 78 million baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) began transitioning into retirement, kicking off an expansion in the number of elderly people that will continue for decades. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one out of every nine baby boomers will live to be at least age 90. In Bucks County, there were 74,282 residents age 64+ in 2000. That number is projected to increase to 160,675 by the year 2025. Additionally, between 2000 and 2010, Bucks County experienced a growth of 27% of persons over the age of 85, from 10,862 to 12,833.
This year's theme for Older Americans Month is "Unleash the Power of Age," emphasizing the fact that older Americans are productive, active and influential members of society, sharing essential talents, wisdom and life experience with their families, friends and neighbors. The goals of Older Americans Month are to:
- Increase community awareness about the problems faced by older adults;
- Strengthen services and opportunities to meet their needs;
- Recognize their past and present contributions; and
- Make this special month the beginning of continued interest and activity on their behalf.
The year 2013 also marks the 48th anniversary of the signing of the Older Americans Act of 1965, which set up an entirely new structure for delivering services to older Americans. At the top of that structure is the U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA). Charged with serving as the leading advocate for older people at the federal level, the AoA presides over a host of programs nationwide and relies on a network of 57 State Units on Aging, 670 Area Agencies on Aging, 5,000 senior community centers and more than 25,000 local groups to provide a huge array of services.
In Bucks County, the Area Agency on Aging (AAA) administers more than 20 programs designed to help older adults and their families get the care they need to stay in their own homes for as long as possible: including information and referral; care management and assessment; in-home and adult day care services; long term care ombudsman; protective services; senior centers; nutrition; shared-ride transportation; legal assistance; volunteer opportunities; insurance counseling; health promotion and employment assistance.
The AAA will hold its annual Public Hearing from 1:00-2:30 p.m. on Monday, May 20 at the Bucks County Library Center, 150 S. Pine St., Doylestown, to review the agency's annual Plan and Budget. Residents are encouraged to attend this hearing.
For more information about the Area Agency on Aging and the many programs and services it provides, please call 267-880-5700, or stop by our office at 30 E. Oakland Ave., Doylestown, PA 18901.