Wednesday, May 16, 2007

". . . in the Merry, Merry Month of May"

May is a month that begins with "Law Day", then proceeds through (among other celebrations) "No Pants Day"*, "Mother's Day", & "Towel Day"*, and ends after "Memorial Day".

Importantly for seniors, May is designated nationally as "
Older Americans Month"; and one week in May (this present week) is designated as "National Nursing Home Week".
(*Note: I'll mention the relatively new celebrations of No Pants Day & Towel Day below, after we explore the more relevant & reverent designations.)
The Administration on Aging (of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services), announced on a webpage entitled "May is Older Americans Month", that "the theme for Older Americans Month 2007 is "Older Americans: Making Choices for a Healthier Future."

The AOA provides a brief
history of OAM, which indicates:
When Older Americans Month was established in 1963, only 17 million living Americans had reached their 65th birthdays. About a third of older Americans lived in poverty and there were few programs to meet their needs. Interest in older Americans and their concerns was growing, however. * * *

Thanks to President Jimmy Carter's 1980 designation, what was once called Senior Citizens Month, is now called "Older Americans Month," and has become a tradition.

Historically, Older Americans Month has been a time to acknowledge the contributions of past and current older persons to our country, in particular those who defended our country. * * *
Tha AoA also offers materials and downloads that support nationwide public recognition of OAM-2007. AoA has actively promoted such an annual recognition consistently since 1992.

For an appreciation of the size, character, contributions, activities, & effects of the older American population, the
U.S. Census Bureau had posted (on 04/25/05) statistical information in a summary format about elders, under the heading Older Americans Month Celebrated in May.

This designation was addressed in an article, entitled
"May Is Older Americans Month", dated May 15, 2007, by Michael A. Piekarz, posted by Spectrum Online.
Older Americans Month is celebrated across the country with ceremonies, events, fairs and other such activities based upon a specific theme. Prior themes include “Older Americans and the Family”, “Aging: A Lifetime Opportunity”, and “What We Do Makes A Difference.”

According the U.S. Administration on Aging (AOA) this year’s theme reflects the idea that one of the biggest challenges facing the United States is caring for people as they age.

Senior ranks are growing due to the aging of 78 million baby boomers. This shift in demographics will have profound implications economically and socially at all levels. * * *

On May 1, 2007, the President of the United States issued a Proclamation, entitled "Older Americans Month, 2007", acknowledging and supporting OAM-2007.

Likewise, the
Pennsylvania Department of Aging supports OAM-2007, as presently highlighted on its homepage: "For 44 years, our nation has paused to honor older Americans during May. The theme this year is Making Choices for a Healthier Future."

Consistent with this year's theme,
PA DoA emphasizes on its dedicated webpage entitled "Older Americans Month 2007", that older persons are entitled to live lives of dignity and independence through:
  • Streamlined access to information as well as to home and community services, including information that will enable people to plan ahead for their long-term living needs
  • Information about cost-effective prevention practices and activities that will improve health and quality of life and reduce risk of disease, disability and injury, and,
  • Innovative, affordable and flexible options of care and support that will provide an array of choices about how and where to live. * * *

A related non-profit organization's designation applies specifically to the second week in May, beginning with Mother's Day: National Nursing Home Week. It is recognized annually; this year it occurs between May 13th & 19th.

This designation was established in 1967 by the American Health Care Association, an organization based in Washington, D.C., for persons employed in the long-term care field. In 2007, the theme of this week's designation is "Treasure Our Elders".

On AHCA's dedicated webpage, you can access supporting resources for activities listed in its 2007 Planning Guide.

Wikipedia, under its heading "May Observances", lists many other designated days and observances occurring in May.

You may not know as much about some of the newer celebrations described there. Here are two:

  • No Pants Day is an international holiday occasionally observed in several Western and other countries on the first Friday in May by not wearing any pants, that is, trousers -- that item of clothing covering both legs worn as the outermost garment. According to the FAQ, it is mainly "a fun-filled holiday", but "from the core idea comes so much more".
  • Towel Day is celebrated every May 25th as a tribute by fans of the late author Douglas Adams. The commemoration was first held in 2001, two weeks after his death on May 11, and since then has been extended to an annual event. On this day, his fans carry a towel with them throughout the day. The towel is a reference to Adams's popular science fiction comedy series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
* * *
We joyed to meet and griev’d to part,
We sigh’d when night came on;
We went to rest with longing heart,
For the comming of the bright day dawn.

Oh, yes, with ever changing sports,
We whiled the hours away;
The skies were bright,
Our hearts were light,
In the merry, merry month of May

-- Stephen Foster (a Pennsylvanian),
"The Merry, Merry Month of May"
(Published in Philadelphia, 1862)

* * *

Update: May 17, 2007:

just a wee bit belatedly, Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell issued an Executive Proclamation recognizing May, 2007, as "Older Americans Month" in the Commonwealth.

The Press Release,
issued on May 17, 2007, entitled "Governor Rendell Proclaims May as 'Older Americans Month'", mentions the Commonwealth's 2020 Vision Project (mentioned earlier on this Blog), which is scheduled for reporting by June 30, 2007:
Pennsylvania is embracing the theme of the U.S. Administration on Aging’s Older Americans Month, “Making Choices for a Healthier Future,” by preparing programs and services to meet the needs of a rapidly growing older population. * * *

Now underway is the Governor’s 2020 Vision Project, a multi-agency strategic response to the projected growth in the state's older population.

The study will identify strategies to meet the demands population changes will place on existing programs, the need for new or expanded programs and services, and the resources necessary to pay for these programs and services. The project will also evaluate the impact of the aging population on the economy, workforce, and tax base and on the social service, health care, and public infrastructure of the state.

For more information & links regarding PA's 2020 Vision Project, see PA EE&F Law Blog postings: PA's "2020 VISION" Project: Part I and PA's "2020 VISION" Project: Part II.

Update: 05/23/07:

A broadcast email message that I received recently noted another specially-designated week in the month of May, 2007. Older Americans' Mental Health Week is recognized from May 21st to 27th in 2007 .

According to the website of the Older Womens' League, on a page found here, "Older Americans’ Mental Health Week [is] an annual opportunity to spread the message that mental illness is not a normal part of aging."
[W]e will continue to tell the American public and policy makers that:
  • Mental illness is not a normal part of aging.
  • Mental illnesses are real, common and treatable.
  • The more people know, the more they can help themselves and others.
  • Healthy adults continue to learn, enjoy life and contribute to society.
  • Public policy should promote mental health, not discriminate against older adults who have mental health problems.

Older Americans, family members, caregivers, neighbors and friends need to know the difference between healthy grieving over losses and unhealthy depression, between normal worries and anxiety disorders, and between normal use and overuse of alcohol and medications to dull emotional and/or physical pain.