May 7, 1987 Americans today are living longer and healthier lives. One consequence of this increased longevity is the growing number of men and women in the older age brackets. Most of our Nation's elderly are leading independent lives outside any institutional setting. Another group of older Americans, some 1.5 million men and women -- a third of them aged 85 years or older -- reside in our Nation's nursing homes.
These citizens represent a great national treasure, not only for their contributions to our society during this turbulent century but for what they represent now: a wealth of accumulated experience and learning. As we celebrate National Nursing Home Week, 1987, all of us can resolve not to overlook the treasures to be found in these fellow Americans who have reached their golden years.
Our debt to them is written plainly across the face of our society, in the homes and cities they have helped build, in the astounding inventions and works of art they have created, in the families they have raised, in the churches and voluntary groups they have helped sustain, and in the freedom they have sheltered from bitter harm.
But to acknowledge this debt is not enough. If we are really to pay tribute to all that these honored Americans have accomplished, a more personal thanks is in order. During National Nursing Home Week, I urge all Americans to make some visible sign of gratitude to the residents of these homes and to those who have assumed the noble duty of caring for them. Let us show our love and appreciation for those who nurtured us by nurturing them now, when they need us most. Let us show our concern by visiting, writing, or sending a special gift to someone for whom such small deeds of kindness do so very much. Let us remind them that they are, indeed, treasures of our hearts and our communities.