May is Older Americans Month nationwide, with the theme "Unleash the Power of Age," and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan marked it last week by holding a Senior Town Hall Meeting at the Downtown Senior Center on Grand Avenue, across from Lakeside Park.
When Older Americans Month was established 50 years ago, during the Kennedy administration, there were 17 million living Americans who had reached their 65th birthdays. President John F. Kennedy decreed May to be Senior Citizens Month, and later, under President Jimmy Carter, the tradition was established as Older Americans Month.
Older Americans Month is celebrated across the country with ceremonies, events, fairs and other activities.
Today the number of people who are 65 and older has climbed to 40.3 million, representing 13.3 percent of the total population. That number is projected to climb to 92.0 million by 2060.
The Downtown Senior Center, located in the 1926 Veterans Memorial Building, is one of 10 such memorials built during that era in Alameda County.
The Mediterranean Beaux Arts-style landmark, set back from Grand Ave by stairs and a terrace, was designed by Henry H. Meyers (1867-1943), who was the son of early Alameda County settlers. His middle daughter, Mildred, was among the first women to obtain an architecture degree from the University of California; she assisted her father on the plans. As a matter of fact, Meyers and his daughter were responsible for all 10 of the county's veteran memorials. Their family home -- there were also two other sisters -- was located in Alameda and is now a historic house museum open to the public.
In addition to its imposing facade -- the tall arched front windows facing the lake are two stories high -- the interiors of the memorial building, such as the meeting rooms, auditorium, library and assembly hall, have many distinctive features and well-made architectural details.
Center Director Jennifer King is planning a Super Seniors event on June 21. "We would like to honor and pay special tribute to the 90-plus adults in our midst," she told me. "I hope you let your readers know that if they or someone they know is in that category, we want to see them come out that day."
The June 21 event is free, but you must call to RSVP and provide your date of birth, King said. The number to call is 510-238-3284.
Readers may recall that two years ago a historic relic from America's past, the ship portal from the USS Maine -- the battleship sunk in 1898 in Havana Cuba's harbor, an incident that partially touched off the Spanish-American War -- was carried off by thieves. Fortunately, city staff retrieved it and stored it for safe keeping. The 5½-foot tall bronze relic has been repositioned and now rests on a new, more secure pedestal on the lawn in front of the Senior Center. We can thank Public Works staffer Jim Ryugo and his crew for reinstating it.
To learn more about the programs, classes and activities at the city's senior centers, go to www.oaklandnet.com.