When Tom Brokaw published a book in 1998 titled “The Greatest Generation,” he was referring to the population who grew up during the Great Depression, who went on to become the parents of Baby Boomers and the Grandparents of Millennials. Brokaw coined this term for a reason; having survived the deprivation of the Great Depression, the battles of World War II and then returned home to help build America’s economy, there’s no denying that this generation certainly was great.
And on August 21, we will honor them on National Senior Citizens Day.
The Birth of National Senior Citizens Day
National Senior Citizens Day dates back to 1988 when President Ronald Reagan put forth a Presidential proclamation to set aside August 21 to recognize the contributions of older Americans to their country and communities. In his proclamation, President Reagan recognized that “with improved health care and more years of productivity, older citizens are reinforcing their historical roles as leaders. Many older people are embarking on second careers, giving younger Americans a fine example of responsibility, resourcefulness, competence, and determination.”
By the 1990s, Senior Citizens Day was a permanent staple of modern society. And by 2002, the United Nations proposed an International Plan of Action on Aging, which aimed to help all governments pledge a commitment to helping older members of society live better lives. Eventually, this morphed into the International Day for Older Persons, which is celebrated on October 1 across the world.
Why It’s Important
Based on the results of the last U.S. Census, a little over 40 million Americans were over the age of 65 in 2010. With the Baby Boomers growing into retirement age at the rate of 10,000 people each day, the senior population is poised to represent almost 20 percent of the total population by 2030.
Whether or not you are currently a senior citizen, you can’t escape the fact that you will one day join these ranks. Celebrating, rather than stigmatizing, the senior population plays an important role in changing the way other generations view growing older. Everyday, people continue to defy expectations based on age, gender, or physical limitations.
How to Celebrate
Many organizations, senior centers, and senior caregiving services across the country will be hosting events to celebrate National Senior Citizens Day this year. Check with your local Department of Aging Care to find special events to attend in your town. If you want to do more, consider volunteering for a senior organization. There are a lot of local and national nonprofits that work with the elderly and are always in need of willing volunteers to help carry out their mission to better the life of an older American.
Share how you and your loved one celebrated with us in the comments below.
Hilary Young is the Communications Manager for Medical Guardian. She helps to keep baby boomers and their loved ones educated about their health and wellbeing. She is also a regular contributor to the Medical Guardian Blog, the Huffington Post, and BlogHer.com.