May Is Older American's Month 
Date:  May 1, 2002 For Release

Today we begin our nation's celebration of Older Americans Month.  In doing so, we renew our commitment to the millions photo of Secretary Thompsonof older Americans who have shaped our country's history and continue to contribute to its growing prosperity.

The theme for Older Americans Month 2002, "America: A Community For All Ages," was suggested by a citizen who asked that we recognize the extraordinary roles that older citizens play within our families and our communities.  The theme acknowledges the important position that elders hold - as leaders, mentors and teachers.  It is in our own neighborhoods, communities, towns and cities where the true wisdom and strength of our nation lies.

The theme also complements President Bush's call to service that is aimed at holding families, communities and our nation together through volunteerism. America's growing numbers of older citizens are ready, willing and able to use their vast experience and talent to help others, and in many communities across America they are already leading the way.

We must continue to pledge our support for older Americans by improving their health and well-being -- through accessible and quality health care and affordable prescription drug coverage, and through support for community-based programs such as those provided by the Administration on Aging.

We must channel our energies behind efforts that are underway in the research community to prevent and reduce the illnesses, disabilities and diseases that impact our aging population.  And, it is imperative that we continue to work together to eliminate the costly, preventable health disparities that dramatically affect our aging minority populations. We must also continue to do all we can to make sure that our family caregivers have access to the services and information they need to care for their loved ones in their homes and communities for as long as possible.

Let us also continue to find ways to empower senior citizens to take charge of their own health and help others to do the same.  Aging is not -- and should never be -- an obstacle to good health and physical fitness.  It is never too late to start eating right and exercising.

As we celebrate Older Americans Month, please join me in saluting our parents, grandparents, other relatives, neighbors and friends who make up this remarkable and diverse population.  The month of May provides us a special opportunity to show our gratitude and appreciation to older Americans, but our commitment to them must be evident each and every day of the year.



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