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Older citizens redefining aging
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 Older residents have much to offer, Trella Berscheidt told Barton County commissioners Monday morning.

They agreed and approved a proclamation marking May as Older Americans Month. Every May, the Administration on Aging, an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, leads the nation in this observance. 

The 2018 theme, Engage at Every Age, emphasizes that one is never too old to take part in activities that can enrich one’s physical, mental and emotional well-being. It also celebrates the many ways in which older adults make a difference in communities, said Berscheidt, one of the county’s appointees to the Southwest Kansas Area Agency on Aging board.

“We don’t realize how much they do,” Berscheidt said. “This is because they do it so quietly.”

She noted RSVP’s 440 registered volunteers. Among other things, they work blood drives, help in hospitals, deliver Meals on Wheels and provide rides to medical appointments.

Today’s seniors are redefining what it means to age in this community, the resolution notes. Opportunities are needed for the older citizens to share their experiences with others.

“We need to take this opportunity to thank them as influential and vital parts of our community,” the proclamation states.

According to the Administration for Community Living, when Older Americans Month was established in 1963, only 17 million living Americans had reached their 65th birthday. About a third of older Americans lived in poverty and there were few programs to meet their needs.

Interest in older Americans and their concerns was growing. A meeting in April 1963 between President John F. Kennedy and members of the National Council of Senior Citizens led to designating May as “Senior Citizens Month,” the prelude to “Older Americans Month.”

According to the ACL’s just-released 2017 Profile of Older Americans, one in seven Americans is 65 or older, and just two years from now, this fast-growing segment of the population will number more than 56 million people, said Lance Robertson, ACL administrator and assistant U.S. secretary for aging. “In this increasingly diverse and vital group are treasured family members, expert craftspeople, skilled professionals, seasoned adventurers and wise advisers. They are our connections to history, and our guides for the future.”

Based in Dodge City, SWKAAA is a planning, coordinating and funding agency for services to anyone age 60 and older living in 28 counties in southwest Kansas, including Barton, Edwards, Hodgeman, Ness, Pawnee, Rush and Stafford.