This month marks the 50th anniversary of Older Americans Month, a time set aside to appreciate and celebrate the vitality and aspirations of older adults and their contributions to our communities. This year’s theme is “Unleash the Power of Age!” and, for me, that theme instantly brings to mind two Older Americans who were a great inspiration in my life.
My paternal grandparents, George and Virginia Kepnick, were senior citizens for my entire life, yet they were never anything less than contagiously energetic, positive go-getters right up until they left us (both lived into their 90s). Often mistaken for being 20 years younger than they actually were, even as they aged, my grandparents unwaveringly lived each day to its fullest. They never slowed down and always made light of getting older, two things I believe were keys to their great attitudes and long lives.
My grandparents also taught me the importance of love for others. Married for 67 years, they were never happier than when they were together, surrounded by friends and family. My grandma in particular was the consummate hostess. She loved to feed people and, to this day, I blush when those who knew her assure me I have inherited her talent for baking.
In our culture, an emphasis on youth often overshadows respect for our elders, so it’s important to make a conscious effort to show our appreciation of the important contributions these people have made to our world. During Older Americans Month, it could not be easier to do so! Here are a few ideas:
- The City of Chicago has activities running all month in honor of our Older Americans, but there are many things you can do too.
- Offer to take an elderly relative or neighbor to the grocery store or just stop by for a visit – they likely have some great stories to tell!
- Volunteer at a local retirement home. The residents love to have guests!
- Chicago-based Housing Opportunities & Maintenance for the Elderly (H.O.M.E.) focuses on helping Chicago’s underserved, low-income seniors maintain their independence and they want to hear your stories about the Older Americans who have impacted your life. Email your story along with a photo and it might be featured on H.O.M.E.’s website or social media page!