During his second term in office, President Ronald Reagan — then in his late 70s — set aside a day to honor senior citizens.
In 1988, Reagan issued a proclamation declaring Aug. 21 as a national day to give older residents of the nation our thanks and praise. National Senior Citizens Day originally was set on Aug. 14 as part of the Social Security Act of 1935, until Reagan opted to make the day an actual holiday with his proclamation 53 years later.
Reagan proclaimed: “For all they have achieved throughout life and for all they continue to accomplish, we owe older citizens our thanks and a heartfelt salute. We can best demonstrate our gratitude and esteem by making sure that our communities are good places in which to mature and grow older — places in which older people can participate to the fullest and can find the encouragement, acceptance, assistance and services they need to continue to lead lives of independence and dignity.”
The day should serve as a reminder to consider the many contributions of folks 65 and older — the government-defined age of senior citizens — and show them gratitude.
One way is to make sure communities meet their needs. While places in Kansas and beyond should consider ways to appeal to all ages, the focus too often is solely on the younger set.
For older Americans, housing and access to health care are critical. Community planning has to include development of a range of affordable housing for older residents, to include assisted living and full-service senior care facilities.
Topeka has made progress in that regard, as have other places in Kansas. Hospitals, retirement communities and other health care and social service providers have cause to craft strategies that best meet seniors' needs as the graying of America has escalated.
U.S. Census statistics suggest that in less than two decades, older adults will outnumber children for the first time in the nation’s history. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2035, people age 65 and older are expected to number about 78 million, with children under age 18 projected to number just under 77 million.
When it comes to economic development, the approach must go beyond bringing in businesses. Efforts to draw and keep people also matter. Seniors may move to new locales because they experience difficulty finding the care they need or lifestyle they prefer.
While communities usually do their best to promote good schools and employment opportunities, other quality-of-life amenities — recreation, retail and restaurants, for example — are sought by prospective residents of all ages, senior citizens included. The wide range of interests based on age always should be taken into consideration when communities position themselves as welcoming places to live.
Wednesday’s National Senior Citizens Day also serves as a timely reminder of the importance of relationships and communication — and how simple acts of kindness can buoy the spirits of older folks who may feel lonely or underappreciated. Other opportunities come in visiting or volunteering at local hospitals or retirement homes.
Most everyone has at least one relative or friend who’s a senior citizen. We hope you take the time every day to reach out and show them support and appreciation for their achievements.