In 1988, Ronald Reagan, then serving as US President, signed Proclamation 5847, a bill that officially created Senior Citizen Day. Within the language of the bill was a provision designating August 21 as the day this holiday would be celebrated each year.
Reagan signed the law to honor older Americans and their achievements while looking to ensure a safe, secure future in which society could meet their specific needs.
“We can best demonstrate our gratitude and esteem by making sure that our communities are good places in which to mature and grow older,” Reagan said. “Places in which older people can participate to the fullest and can find the encouragement, acceptance, assistance, and services they need to continue to lead lives of independence and dignity.”
At the time, this demographic was quickly growing in America. Now, it’s one of the largest. There are more adults older than 60 than there are children younger than five. Advancements in medical technology have created a society that allows older Americans to thrive, living vibrant, robust lifestyles.
As we celebrate Senior Citizen’s Day, let’s reflect on Senior Citizens that accomplished tremendous feats, proving that age is just a number.
John Glenn was an American pioneer, serving as one of America’s first astronauts after a decorated career as a Marine aviator. Later in life, he served as a United States Senator, building upon the discipline and knowledge he gained during his time among America’s elite aviators.
In 1962, John became the first American to orbit the Earth during the Mercury 6 mission. In the 1990s, more than 30 years later, John decided he wanted to return to space. His desire to do so stemmed from his belief that NASA should conduct additional research about aging in space in order to better serve its astronauts.
Still a sitting US Senator, John passed a series of rigorous physicals and in 1998, he entered Earth’s orbit once again aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. At age 77, he became the oldest person to enter Earth’s orbit.
In 1987, one year before Ronald Reagan codified Senior Citizens Day into law, 100-year-old Teiichi Igarashi reached the summit of Mt. Fuji, a 12,385-foot dormant volcano in Japan. Teiichi did so barefoot and without water, eating a diet of raw eggs.
It was a climb that was familiar to the former lumberjack. Each year since 1975, he climbed the mountain in memory of his late wife, carrying her picture with him.
Mt. Fuiji is a popular destination for seniors, many of whom reach the summit. However, Teiichi remains the oldest person to complete this feat.
At the age of 86, Gladys Burrill ran her first marathon. Six years later, she became the oldest woman to ever complete a marathon when she crossed the finish line at the 2010 Honolulu Marathon at age 92.
Gladys said she utilized a combination of power walking and jogging to complete the marathon. She was used to exercising, as the 92-year-old walked upwards of 30 miles each week. She credited that and a positive attitude to her success, telling those that asked her how she did it to walk, run and stop to smell the flowers every so often.
At age 76, Anna “Grandma” Moses had developed arthritis that prevented her from embroidering pictures and quilting – two of her beloved hobbies. Seeking a new form of expression, she turned to painting, drawing inspiration from scenes in rural New England.
Ten years after she first took up a paintbrush, she was among America’s most decorated painters. Some of her works have sold for more than $1 million and her distinct style continues to inspire artists to this day.
She continued to paint after she reached age 100, garnering publicity and starring as the subject of a documentary.
In 1930, Nola Ochs, then nearly 20 years old, started college. She did not finish.
More than 70 years later, she got a second chance. In 2007, Ochs, a former farmer, earned a college degree from Fort Hays State University. She graduated in the same class as her 21-year-old granddaughter. At age 95, she became the oldest-ever college graduate.
Ochs wasn’t done yet. After she helped harvest crops from her land, she returned to campus in the Fall seeking a Master’s degree. Three years later, she earned that too.
She continued to stay involved on campus, serving as a Teaching Assistant for several years. Her record was broken in 2016 when 96-year-old Shigemi Hirata graduated from Kyoto University in Japan.
Sagora Senior Living’s residents live active, vibrant lifestyles across Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care programs. If you’re an older American looking for a social place to call home, tour your local Sagora Senior Living community. With more than 50 communities in 11 different states, you’re bound to find your perfect fit.