Do you remember the term “1000 points of light” used by George H. W. Bush? Chances are if you do recall his statement you might be one of the older Americans that are honored every year by the celebration of Older Americans in May. During his presidency, Bush handed out "Point of Light Awards" six days a week to citizens working to aid their communities through volunteer work. In 1990 Bush spearheaded the creation of the Points of Light Foundation, the goal of which was to promote private, non-governmental solutions to social issues. Every year in May, Older Americans Month recognizes the contributions of older adults across the nation. This tradition was actually started by another President, Gerald Ford in 1976 and expanded under Bush.
Older Americans to the Rescue
Older Americans give back to their communities in a variety of ways. Seniors have experienced changing times during their lifetime. Younger people don’t volunteer at the levels people did in the past. Older Americans continue to volunteer and serve their neighborhoods in their own ways. They mentor children, volunteer at soup kitchens, or serve their country in a variety of ways. Each volunteer deserves recognition for their commitment to their fellow man, and community.
Older Americans Month also serves to raise awareness concerning elder abuse and neglect. As we age, the risk of abuse and neglect increases. We must be sure resources are in place to protect our older population from the risks of abuse and neglect. One way to reduce abuse and neglect is to maintain involvement in community and social activities. Being involved helps to maintain overall health and vitality.
One of the great stories I have experienced regarding an older American staying involved is about Larry Warner of Everett Washington. Larry was an executive with a technology company after he served in the US Navy. Larry brought the same strong passion to retirement that he had when he was a corporate manager, coach, and private pilot. After he retired Larry served on the board of a non-profit clinic that was in the Everett area where he served tirelessly to help improve both the facilities and service level at the clinic. Larry along with other board members was eventually able to build a new clinic and help breathe new life into the care system at the clinic. Larry currently serves as a volunteer member of the Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue team. He has transformed his former piloting skills into piloting a drone that seeks out lost or injured hikers in remote areas–keeping actual searchers on the ground safer. Larry is presently President of two other boards in Kauai Hawaii--not bad duty when he gets to visit to attend meetings!
Locally programs like ACCAP, Anoka County Community Action Program, provide affordable or free services to adults 60 years of age or older within Anoka County. The majority of these services are provided by dedicated seniors that are willing to help other seniors. This can be tasks around the home like yard work, housekeeping, or simply companionship. If you want to volunteer contact ACCAP. Washington county has its own volunteer program where you can find a large variety of opportunities available. They even have search and rescue opportunities! The internet can help you find a vast array of opportunities giving you a chance to weigh how they might fit into your own life.
Celebrating Older Americans Month
Every month that seniors get out there and enjoy volunteering in their community is a celebration. Like all volunteerism, it warms both your heart and the hearts of people that receive the benefit of your work. If you’re looking for more ideas on how to celebrate OAM click here. As my mom used to say, "many hands make light work" now is the time to be one of those thousand points of light!