An often overlooked portion of President John F. Kennedy’s legacy is again coming into sharp focus.

May is Older Americans Month, designated by Kennedy in 1963 in collaboration with the National Council of Senior Citizens. The designation is again receiving significant attention from organizations including the Union County Senior Center, which has planned a number of activities to commemorate it — and at the same time draw more seniors to the facility.

“We want to invite new seniors (to the senior center) so they can learn what is available to them,” said Audrey Smith, manager of the Union County Senior Center.

Activities include a Blue Mountain Old Time Fiddlers concert at 6 p.m. May 18. All are welcome to attend. Admission is $5 at the door (12 and younger get in free).

A pie and ice cream social celebrating Older Americans Month will be held from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. May 23 at the Union County Senior Center.

The Union County Senior Center will conclude its salute to Older Americans Month on May 29 with a Customer Appreciation Day. All of those age 60 and older will be provided with a free lunch. The menu will include roast pork and baked apples. The Union County Senior Center serves lunch every weekday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Also throughout this month, newcomers to the senior center will get a free lunch the first time they come.

Smith hopes the lunches will heighten seniors’ awareness of what the senior center can add to their lives.

“We want to introduce them to a new place where they can meet new friends,” Smith said.

Angie Peters, manager of the Northeast Oregon Public Transit, which, like the Union County Senior Center, is part of Community Connection of Northeast Oregon, said that Older Americans Month is a good time to remember seniors.

“It is a demographic that is a little too easy to forget once we no longer see them on an everyday basis in the workplace,” Peters said. “They are still such an important part of the community.”

The Northeast Oregon Public Transit service Peters manages provided a total of 12,650 rides to seniors age 65 and older in Union County in 2018. The number of rides will likely go up in the next year thanks to a new NEOPT program Peters is promoting this month and throughout the year.

The program is CAT (Connecting All Towns) Link. The program, which begins July 1, will give people free rides anywhere in Union County. Rides will be provided for shopping trips, doctor appointments, visits to friends and many other purposes. CAT Link drivers will come right to the homes of those who are being picked up, Peters said.

While CAT Link is open to people of all ages, Peters said seniors will likely be among those who use it the most because of the mobility issues many face.

The La Grande City Council and the Union County Board of Commissioners are among those also recognizing Older Americans Month. The La Grande City Council passed a proclamation in late April declaring May Older Americans Month in La Grande. On May 3, the county commissioners passed a proclamation declaring Older Americans Month in Union County.

The national 2019 theme of Older Americans Month is Connect, Create and Contribute. The theme, according to www.acl.gov, is meant to encourage seniors to connect with friends, family, and services that support participation; create by engaging in activities that promote learning, health and personal enrichment; and contribute time, talent and life experience to benefit others.

Older Americans Month was initially known as Senior Citizens Month, according to www.acl.gov. President Lyndon Johnson changed the name to Older Americans Month in 1965 after Congress passed the Older Americans Act of 1965. The Older Americans Act established the Administration on Agency, a federal agency designed to address the struggles of older Americans. The legislation also introduced nutrition programs, transportation assistance and other services for seniors.

See complete story in Wednesday's Observer

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