John F. Kennedy, a member of our “Greatest Generation” and the man who led us to put a man on the moon, also designated May as Senior Citizen Month beginning in 1963. 17 years later in 1980, Jimmy Carter changed it to Older Americans Month. In 2011, this celebration is especially important for Norwalk. We are celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Norwalk Senior Center and keeping faith with the overarching theme of “Connecting the Community”
When the observance began, there were only 17 million Americans that had reached their 65th birthday. If you think about who those people were…they had been born in the waning years of the 19th century, lived through 2 World Wars as well as Korea. A third of them lived in poverty and there were virtually no support programs to educate them so that they might help themselves to a better life.
By 1963, the focus on the needs of the aging population had begun to grow. Improvements in healthcare made it possible for this group to grow as large as it had, in spite of the wars, and brought the issues to the forefront. Since then, a light has been shone on a number of issues related to aging, such as elder abuse, the unique medical needs of an aging population, shortfalls in Medicare and the need to plan and save for retirement. While Alzheimer’s disease was first diagnosed in 1906, it only became apparent as more Americans lived long enough to experience it.
Americans sixty five and older now constitute more than thirteen percent of the United States’ population. In thirty-five years the number of seniors in America will increase to twenty two percent and include me. Life expectancy has grown from 47 years when those original honorees were born to over 76 years for someone born today. In short, seniors are our fastest growing population segment and we all hope to be a part of the group someday and most of us will succeed.
Older Americans do connect our community. The sense of continuity and history our parents and grandparents bring to our families engender the pride and traditions that define our lives. The examples of sacrifice and dedication of the seniors in our community have inspired me and have most certainly served as the impetus for many an entrepreneur and activist. The advances in healthcare and careful financial planning allow seniors to play a significant ongoing role in our community, mentoring the leaders of tomorrow, and serving as the inspiration for the young.
Recently, you have read about some difficulties at the Center. A terrible accident destroyed our front entrance and recurrent vandalism damaged our sign and lighting. We are coming back stronger than ever, though. A new entrance was opened recently and with the community’s help, a new sign and lights will make our presence known again on Allen Rd. Remember, the center is not just the place where seniors gather to learn, eat, socialize, exercise, and plan travel…it is also the hub of the city’s Meals on Wheels Program, which delivers nutrcious meals to those in need in Norwalk every day.
Older Americans Month is a time to acknowledge specific seniors and their contribution to our society. Each year, the president issues a proclamation calling on the nation to pay tribute to seniors. As part of the 40th Anniversary Celebration, the members of the Board of Directors have chosen to honor Frank Zullo, who was the Mayor of Norwalk when the Senior Center was founded and continues to set an example for other attorneys in town to keep up with. We have chosen the Dolce Center in West Norwalk as the site of the gala and we invite you all to attend. If you have never been to Dolce, this is a golden opportunity. If you would like more information, tickets, or just to make a donation to help us make a difference in the lives of seniors, please go to www.norwalkseniorcenter.org print the reply card and send it in.
David McCarthy is a member of the Board of Directors of the Norwalk Senior Center and a member of the Finance and Financial Development Committees, however, these views are ones he hopes are shared by all of Norwalk.