Tribute to tri-state senior citizens

Published 1:30 pm Tuesday, August 21, 2018

For the past 30 years, Americans have been urged to honor their senior citizens in August.

President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation declaring Aug. 21 as National Senior Citizens Day. Since then, the term “senior citizen” has become universal in our country.

Earlier, old age often referred to people who were nearing the end of the human life cycle. Terms used included old people, old folks, the elderly and elders. In today’s world, we recognize these individuals with our support.

It’s a good tie to show our appreciation to our seniors and to recognize their achievements and wisdom. So, we might ask “What does the term mean? When does an individual become a senior citizen?”

Traditionally, people have been eligible to retire with full Social Security benefits at age 65. Additionally, one can retire early at age 62 and receive a portion of retirement benefits. Using 65 as the generally accepted retirement age, the number of senior citizens in the tri-state area (Bell, Claiborne, Harlan and Lee counties) would equate to between 15 and 20 percent of the population.

If you want another definition of old, here’s a quote from Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. He retired from the Supreme Court in 1932 at age 90. He once said, “Old is 15 years older than I am now.”

Like Mr. Holmes, many Tri State seniors haven’t chosen to retire at 62 or 65. Their health is good, their talents are many, and they are valuable employees in the workforce. And, if they’re not working as seniors, they are volunteering with civic and church groups and other non-profits.

If you or someone you know is continuing to work as a senior citizen, you are not alone. The nation’s 35 million older workers now make up 23 percent of the U. S. workforce, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Should you choose to work as a senior citizen, the job market is looking brighter. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the groups of workers 65 to 74 and 75 and older to grow “…faster than any other age segments through 2024.”

The news on many fronts looks good for senior citizens. Enhanced treatments for illness, longer life spans, and the joys of sharing an exceptional life with children and grandchildren are some of the benefits. August is a good time for all of us to pay tribute to the senior citizens in our families and in our communities.

William H. Baker, native of Claiborne County and former resident of Middlesboro, may be contacted at wbaker@limestone.edu