Thirty years ago today, President Ronald Reagan declared the first National Senior Citizens Day. The idea behind the initiative was to give back to seniors who have impacted our lives by offering them a “heartfelt salute.” Today, unfortunately, the cause often goes overlooked. But this fast-growing segment of the population is more in need of a salute than ever as they face new challenges of aging.
What are those challenges, and how can we help? Here’s what you should know about today’s purpose and how to participate.
Why Celebrate Senior Citizens Day?
We wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for seniors. They’ve given years of knowledge to modern developments, served as role models for younger generations, and allowed us opportunities to contribute ourselves, both politically and socially, more than ever before. Some of them were even around to protect our country from war.
These valuable contributions are what inspired Senior Citizens Day. The day was established to support and honor all that our seniors have done and continue to do for our communities. By bringing our families together and dedicating time to our elderly loved ones, we can show them just what their achievements mean to us.
At the same time, connecting with seniors gives us an opportunity to recognize their hardships. Research shows that 28 percent of seniors live in isolation: a number set to increase as the elderly population more than doubles in the next few decades. The more isolated our loved ones, the more difficult for family and friends to detect the warning signs of physical and cognitive impairment. In turn, impairments put seniors’ safety at risk – rendering them unable to defend themselves from elder abuse, for example.
Today, 1 in 10 seniors suffer some extent of abuse. The warning signs of certain types of abuse can be difficult to detect, too, especially in nursing homes. Today is the day to raise awareness of the country’s elder abuse epidemic and to do what we can to make seniors feel safe.
How to Participate
Wherever you live in the U.S., you’re likely to find events and activities organized by local organizations and charities. If you can’t attend, the important thing is to find ways to engage with seniors and ensure they’re living and socializing to the fullest. Random acts of kindness, however small, go a long way.
For example, you could:
- Call or spend time with a senior you know. Listen to their stories, empathize with their concerns, and show them they are appreciated and loved.
- Arrange a fun activity for them to enjoy with their grandchildren, such as a movie, games, cooking, or a family project like collecting old photos.
- Volunteer at a retirement home. Some seniors get few opportunities to see visitors or meet new people, but a friendly conversation with a stranger is said to boost happiness.
- Treat your loved one to a shopping trip. On Senior Citizens Day, many shops and restaurants offer discounts and promotions to seniors.
- Share your experiences and photos with elderly loved ones on social media. Use #SeniorCitizensDay to post.
- Help a senior in need. If you suspect they are struggling with health issues, relationships, daily living, financial management, or mistreatment, for example, ask how you can lend a hand.
Of course, there’s never a bad time to make our loved ones feel special. We should be encouraging their happiness and protecting them from harm throughout the year.
That said, offering your time today is what our nation’s seniors deserve as thanks for their achievements or as support through their unique challenges. After all they’ve done to make our communities great places in which to grow up, it’s our turn to make them great places in which to grow older.