By the President of the United States of America
Each year since 1963, the month of May has been designated as our Nation's special time for both honoring our older citizens and assessing their present needs. It is my deep belief that not only the form, but the meaning, of that tradition must be observed throughout America.
Since I became President, my Administration has worked hard-and successfully-to improve the quality of older persons' lives by enhancing their physical and material security and by providing greater opportunities for them to continue utilizing their skills and experiences.
We have firmed up the financial base of the Social Security system and are continuing to monitor closely the revenue needs of this most fundamental social program.
We have worked with the Congress to pass the Older Americans Act, which will unify and improve the administration of services.
We have pressed for stronger laws to protect older people against discrimination in the job market and in the allocations of Federal resources, and we have streamlined the enforcement of those laws. We have also taken the initiative to end age discrimination in employment opportunities.
However, significant changes are taking place in our population which raise new issues, and highlight new aspects of existing issues. A decline in the birth rate, along with improvements in health care, are moving us toward a society in which more Americans, and a higher proportion of Americans, will be older. The implications of this gradual but certain shift will be felt by all segments of society.
Answers must be found to a host of questions which have just begun to be asked, let alone resolved.
• How can America be assured that the talents, creativity and experience of its older citizens are adequately tapped through opportunities for salaried employment, self employment and work as volunteers?
• How do we identify and support more policies, both public and private, which further the independence and dignity of older people?
• How can we target resources to meet the health and social needs of older persons with special problems, without perpetuating the myth that most elderly are frail or helpless?
• How can we expedite the transfer of new knowledge from the remarkable advances of biomedical, social and behavioral research?
• How can we focus public policy on the needs and resources of the elderly?
• How can we assure that elderly members of minority groups are full participants in America's progress on behalf of the aged?
• What is the proper role of government at federal, state and community levels in assuring services and opportunities for older citizens, while encouraging the work .of private organizations and the caring support of families?
Now is the time to renew a national discussion on these and related issues, through local, state and regional meetings leading up to the White House Conference on Aging in 1981. The forums must involve Americans from all segments of our society: business, labor, educational, cultural, religious, political and community leaders; specialists working with the aged; and, most important, older people themselves.
I therefore urge that community forums be held throughout the Nation during May, to begin the process which will culminate in a thoughtful, productive and enduringly beneficial White House Conference in 1981.
Now, THEREFORE, I, JIMMY CARTER, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate May 1980 as Older Americans Month. I ask all Americans to participate in the activities and discussions marking this special period, so that America can be strengthened and enlightened by the result. I further designate May 8, 1980, as Senior Citizens Day in honor of older Americans.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this ninth day of April, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred eighty, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fourth.
[Filed with the Office of the Federal Register, 2:26 p.m., April 9, 1980]