Older Americans Act: Services that keep older Americans healthy, safe, and in their community

President Lyndon Johnson after signing the Older Americans Act, 1965.

For over fifty years, the Older Americans Act (OAA) has resulted in helping older Americans remain in their communities-of-choice for as long as possible through local services. Signed in 1965, the OAA was established out of concern for the lack of community social services for older Americans (ACL, 2019). The OAA established the “aging network” throughout the United States, which includes the Administration on Aging, State Units on Aging in every state, local Area Agencies on Aging, Tribal and Native Hawaiian organizations, and State Long-term Care Ombudsman offices in every state. Through this network, the OAA identifies critical services to be delivered in every state with Federal appropriations, or “discretionary funding.”

To answer this week’s trivia question, then, the answer is “True.” While it is likely you have heard of the Area Agencies on Agings’ most recognized services, congregate (e.g., “senior dining sites,” senior centers providing meals) and home-delivered meals (e.g., Meals on Wheels), you probably did not realize that the AAA funded those services with State and Federal appropriations, as well as through local donations, meal contributions, and county-based funding. While this program provides critical nutrition and health support for older Americans, it also helps with reducing social isolation and promoting the independence of the older adult who wants to remain in their home. But the nutrition program is not the only service included in the OAA to ensure that older adults can remain in their home for as long as possible.

Photo: MCCenter

The OAA calls on AAAs to provide access to information and services for in-home assistance, family caregiver support, evidence-based health services and programs, and protection and prevention from elder abuse. Other services, such as transportation, job training, building community-based support networks, and advocacy for older adults are also services in which AAAs engage to promote safety, health, and independence for older adults.

The OAA must be reauthorized by Congress to continue to provide these essential services to older adults across the country. This year, 2019, is one such year. The OAA is up for re-authorization. The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging provides a great resource on recommendations for the upcoming 2019 reauthorization (click here to see the Policy Brief). The Iowa Association of Area Agencies on Aging, board members, and AAA leadership from Iowa visited with Iowa’s Congressional members this past week in Washington D.C. to educate them about the OAA and about Iowa’s AAAs successes in fulfilling the vision of the OAA. You can see our visit information here. Do you want to express your support for older Americans? Contact your Senator or Representative to voice your support for the Older Americans Act.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this week’s survey. Follow our social media to participate in weekly surveys.

References:

Administration for Community Living (2019). Older Americans Act web page accessed March, 2019. https://acl.gov/about-acl/authorizing-statutes/older-americans-act

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