Connect, Create, Contribute: Celebrating Older Americans Month
by Michelle Meier
May will soon be here and with it comes a host of holidays and special occasions, including Mother’s Day, graduations, and Memorial Day. May is also Older Americans Month. This annual celebration of older adults was developed in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy and the National Council of Senior Citizens as a way to acknowledge the contributions of past and current older persons to our country, in particular, those who defended our country.
Each year, more and more older adults are making a positive impact in and around various communities. As volunteers, employees, employers, educators, mentors, advocates and more, they offer insight and experience that benefit the entire community. That’s why Older Americans Month has been recognizing the contributions of this growing population for 56 years.
The national theme of Older Americans Month this year is Connect, Create, Contribute. The focus is to encourage older adults to:
- Connect with friends, family, and services that support participation.
- Create by engaging in activities that promote learning, health and personal enrichment.
- Contribute time, talent, and life experience to benefit others.
The Senior Resource Center (SRC) mission is directed at helping older adults and their families. The SRC mission is this: “To provide resources, information, opportunities, and advocacy that enhance the quality of the second half of life.” But in many ways, this year’s theme is found in all that they do at SRC.
SRC has a number of ways to keep seniors in Douglas County connected to not only their friends and family, but there are events designed to keep them engaged with their contemporaries. The Senior Wheels program allows adults 60 and over to have access to transportation to get around town. Sometimes that means getting to a medical appointment, but sometimes it allows them to visit a friend and remain engaged with others outside their home. There also are monthly gatherings for seniors in both Eudora and Baldwin City to bring together seniors in these communities. This is a way to provide social engagement as well as a forum to discuss senior-related issues and share information on programs and services provided by SRC and its partners.
Members of the Tuesday Painters group meet at SRC once a week. Each brings their own materials and current project and they enjoy a morning of creativity and camaraderie with each other and staff. In addition, SRC works with the United Way of Douglas County and several partner organizations to allow qualifying seniors to participate in various exercise classes, lifelong learning courses, and attend numerous live performances as a way to battle isolation. SRC currently has six area partners in this program with the recent addition of the Lawrence Arts Center, as well as Lawrence Parks & Recreation, Lied Center of Kansas, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Theatre Lawrence, and the Watkins Museum of History.
More than 300 individuals who give of their time to support SRC programs and implement its mission. Many of these volunteers are seniors helping to enhance the lives of others. The board of directors is made up of many retired individuals who lend their experience and talents to the Senior Resource Center. Each of them has a unique story.
The theme of Connect, Create and Contribute is woven into the Senior Resource Center every day, but how can you celebrate Older Americans Month? Consider ways you can connect with older adults in your own life. Make an effort to call your parents and grandparents, or reach out to a senior neighbor. You can help them implement the create component by ensuring they are finding ways to remain engaged in activities that enrich their daily lives.
As far as contribute, look for ways an older adult can lend their life experience to enhance your life. As you take time to celebrate your mom and honor those who have served our country, consider taking a little time to acknowledge the contributions of the older adults in your life and in the community. It will be time well spent and that interaction will enrich your life as much as it does theirs.
Michelle Meier is the director of community engagement for the Senior Resource Center for Douglas County, a community partner of LMH Health.