May is Older Americans Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the contributions of the nation’s seniors. Since 1963, when President John F. Kennedy first proclaimed May as Senior Citizens Month, political officials, advocacy groups, community organizations and families have highlighted achievements of seniors and the value in acknowledging their importance. Each generation strengthens the foundation for the next generation.
In 1963, there were 17 million Americans over the age of sixty five. Fifty years later there are more than 40 million Americans over sixty-five, and since last year, baby boomers have been aging in at the rate of 10,000 a day.
In Massachusetts nearly 1 million people are sixty-five or older. With Massachusetts life expectancy at 80.2 years – two years longer than the national average – and people who reach sixty-five likely to live another twenty years, seniors are the fastest growing segment of the total population. In fact, the expectation is that if you aren’t a senior yet, you will live to be one. And, you are going to be healthier, more active, and more engaged than any previous senior population.
This year, the Older Americans Month theme is: Never Too Old To Play. Many seniors, particularly baby boomers, already keep fit with some form of regular exercise – yoga, Zumba, ballroom dancing, golf, tennis, walking, swimming, bowling, weight-training – all of which promote longer, healthier, more satisfying lives. There are other ways to play as well: hobbies – painting, singing, acting, sewing, gardening, crafts. The point is that there are endless numbers of ways to enjoy yourself and stay connected.
If you are a senior or a senior’s family member looking for ways to “play,” let me suggest that you begin at your local Council on Aging or senior center. Check out the Key Resources section of the mass.gov/elders homepage to find a center near you. If you don’t already, start playing, and if you do, bring a friend.