Celebrate Older Americans Month

In 1963 President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May as “Senior Citizens Month” to recognize contributions made by our elders, particularly those who defended our country. Since the passage of the Older Americans Act in 1965, the celebration has been renamed: “Older Americans Month.”

Hawaii’s entire elder population compromises nearly one quarter of our State’s total population. Demographically they provide significant economic and cultural contributions to Hawaii’s quality of life. They also represent the largest block of registered voters in the state.

Each year in May, Hawaii’s four county Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) recognize two honorees (eight total) for their many volunteer accomplishments. The Executive Office on Aging and the Policy Advisory Board for Elder Affairs (PABEA) then brings them together in early June for a statewide recognition ceremony.

This year's state level celebration of Older Americans Month will take place on Friday, June 3, 2016 at Kahala Nui Retirement Community in Honolulu. Each county establishes criteria for selection of a male and female, whose resumes often include decades of public service in their communities. Many nominees have remained active well into their eighties and nineties. Service to community is a universal trait and each year various groups, churches and organizations nominate dozens of candidates from their respective county.

Selection committees vary from county to county. Hawaii county has its Committee on Aging, appointed by the mayor. Maui and Kauai rely on their respective Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) for processing and evaluating the nominations. The city and county of Honolulu‘s Elderly Affairs Division, chooses nominees via its Retired Seniors Volunteer Program (RSVP).

Both President Obama and Governor Ige are expected to announce official proclamations designating this May as “Older Americans Month.”

This year’s National theme, selected by the U.S. Administration for Community Living, is: “Blaze a Trail,” meant to raise awareness about issues facing older adults and highlight the ways they are advocating for themselves, their peers and their communities.

For more information about this event, contact the State of Hawaii Executive Office on Aging at (808) 586-0100.

Jim Cisler is the Chair of the Recognitions & Awards Committee for the Policy Advisory Board for Elder Affairs.