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NP Perspectives: Older Americans Month


By Linda J. Keilman, DNP, MSN, GNP-BC, FAANP
Associate Professor & Gerontological Nurse Practitioner


This May, the United States is celebrating the 60th anniversary of Older Americans Month (OAM). In 1963, President John F. Kennedy and members of the National Council of Senior U.S. Citizens got together to address the concerns of 17 million Americans aged 65 and older. Kennedy proclaimed May as “Senior Citizens Month” and, in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Older Americans Act (OAA), declaring May as OAM.

The OAA made positive changes including:

  • Establishing the Administration on Aging, the first federal agency dedicated to addressing the struggles of older Americans,
  • Introducing nutrition programs, transportation assistance, federally funded adult day care, legal assistance, and
  • Paving the way to passing the Medicare program to offer health care to older adults.


Since 1965, every U.S. president has presented a formal proclamation declaring May as a time to remember and honor older Americans.

OAM recognizes and celebrates the contributions, achievements, and trends initiated by older adults. May is also a time when we strengthen our commitment as a nation to honoring and caring for older adults (Tri-County Office on Aging, 2023). In May, the Michigan Area Agencies on Aging — there is one in every county bring attention to important political issues relating to the independence and well-being of older adults. Lunch on the capitol lawn and other events take place during Senior Action Week (May 15-19) and Older Michiganians Day (May 17).  

This year’s theme of Older Americans Month is “Aging Unbound,” which offers all of us a golden opportunity to explore how implicit bias toward aging impacts our personal and professional experiences and creates a barrier to the age-friendly policies that are needed in the U.S. Ageism is bias or negativity toward individuals or groups based on their date of birth.

According to the World Health Organization, ageism refers to the inaccurate stereotypes (how we think), prejudice (how we feel), and discrimination (how we act) towards others or oneself based on age. Ageism is one of the last socially acceptable prejudices that people of all ages commit on a regular basis, according to the American Psychological Association.

In the U.S., we need to reframe our attitudes toward aging.

The world is aging. The fastest growing population are individuals 85 and older. The second-fastest growing group are those 65 and older. Michigan has the 14th highest percentage of residents aged 65 and older out of all the states. In 2021 there were approximately 2 million individuals 65 and older in Michigan.  By 2030, all individuals born between 1946 and 1964 (known as Baby Boomers) will be age 65 or older.

According to the US Census Bureau, by 2034 there will be 77 million people in the U.S. 65 years & older. This will be the first time in the history of the U.S. that older adults will outnumber children under the age of 18.

This statistic will transform the US health care system and, alas, it is a change we are not ready for. Healthcare will need to shift focus from care in the hospital to care in the home and community. There are thousands of available jobs in aging, gerontology, and geriatrics across the globe. Yet, because of stereotypes, bias, and myths we cannot get individuals — especially students — to be interested in entering these fields. I invite you to think about your feelings toward aging. And, if you are thinking about a change in your nursing career, how about specializing in gerontology?

Of course, many nursing programs train nurses and nurse practitioners who will treat our aging population. For example, the Michigan State University College of Nursing offers Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner and Adult Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist MSN and DNP programs, which prepare nurses for this population through a mix of classes and varied clinical experiences.

This month, celebrate your age, wherever you are on the aging spectrum. And, if you have older adults in your life, thank them for all the contributions they have made to get us where we are today.

Happy Aging!