Looking back, the month of July seemed to just fly by (they say time does that as we “mature”). Many of us don’t realize what a monumental month July is.

We all enjoy the Fourth of July and celebrating Independence Day or just sleeping in and then relaxing by the grill, but let’s take a moment to look at some of the historical legislation that has been passed in the month of July and has impacted our aging and disabled communities.

July 2, 1964, the Civil Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. This act outlawed segregation in businesses, banned discriminatory practices in employment and ended segregation in public places. President Johnson invited hundreds of guests to a televised signing ceremony in the East Room of the White House, and, after using more than 75 pens to sign the bill, gave away those pens as mementoes of the historic occasion.

July 14, 1965 the Older Americans Act was signed into law by President Johnson. It established the Administration on Aging within the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and called for the creation of State Units on Aging. This law was passed in response to policymakers’ concerns about the lack of community social services for older persons (defined as 60 and older). This act authorizes funds for the states and territories to provide a wide array of service programs — from home delivered meals to transportation assistance. Funds are also provided to 244 tribal organizations and two Native Hawaiian organizations.

July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. The ADA is considered one of the most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation ever written. It prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in all the activities that many take for granted. Like the Civil Rights Act the ADA is an “equal opportunity” law for people with disabilities. The ADA was the act of thousands of people across America who spoke up in many different ways to reverse the injustices faced by people with disabilities.

July 30, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson traveled to the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, to sign into law the Social Security Act Amendments of 1965, (Medicare/Medicaid). Actually, the proposal to assist retirees with pensions and insurance was not a new idea at all. Congress first held hearings on government insurance in 1916 during the Progressive Era. At that time President Franklin Roosevelt felt that it was a better strategy to first pass the “old age pension” provision (we know that as Social Security). (Note: The Social Security Act was signed in 19 years later, in 1935). Medicare has seen many changes since 1965, including the addition of benefits for individuals with disabilities, the Medicare Advantage program (managed care) and prescription drug coverage.

Yes, indeed, July is a landmark month in which to celebrate our freedom and all the benefits of living in America.

If you would like more information on Medicare or to volunteer in your community, please call the Hawai‘i SHIP.

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This SHIP project was supported, in part, by grant number 90SA0004-02-00 from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C., 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.