Amy bigger picBy Amy Rowan
Options Counselor/ADRC Program’s Coordinator for the Area Agency on Aging at Region 10

July 14th marks the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act, and not many people fully understand this landmark piece of legislation.

The community is stunned when I tell them about the Older Americans Act and Older Coloradoans Act. Many clients are under the assumption the programs were established because of “Obamacare”. I have worked in the aging industry for over 20 years; I only found out about these programs 4 years ago.

The Older Americans Act (OAA) was passed in 1965 as part of President Johnson’s “Great Society” initiative with the goal of supporting older Americans to live at home and in the community with dignity and independence for as long as possible.  Each year, more than eight million older Americans receive critical support such as nutrition, in-home care, transportation, disease prevention/health promotion, legal services, elder abuse prevention, senior employment, and other social supports essential to maintaining their independence. Additionally, half of a million families receive assistance for their role as caregivers for older persons under the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP), which provides grants to AAAs/Title VI aging programs. These grants support family members who are caring for their older loved ones who are ill or are disabled.

For fifty years, OAA programs have demonstrated a unique ability to provide quality services while enhancing and protecting federal resources. OAA programs help prevent unnecessary hospital stays and readmissions, delay or avoid costly institutional placements, and promote efficiencies within the health care system by coordinating care and managing care transitions.

The funding for OAA programs has not kept pace with the increasing numbers, need, and diversity of the senior population, and it is still threatened by automatic cuts imposed by sequestration. Today we are waiting for congress to reauthorize the Older Americans Act which expired in 2011; help us take action https://www.ncoa.org/public-policy-action/older-americans-act/.

Facts about Older Americans Act

  • On July 14, 1965, the Older Americans Act was signed into law. It established the Administration on Aging within the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and called for the creation of State Units on Aging.
  • Medicare, Title XVIII, a health insurance program for the elderly was established as part of the Social Security Act.
  • Medicaid, Title XIX, a health insurance program for low-income persons, was added to the Social Security Act.

Between 1969 and 2000 other amendments have also been granted:

  • Foster Grandparents and Retired Senior Volunteer Programs
  • National nutrition program for the elderly
  • Establishment of the Area Agencies on Aging, which authorized local community agencies to create multi-purpose senior centers
  • Community Service Employment grant program for low-income persons age 55 and older.
  • Transportation
  • Housing and Community Development Act enacted; provided for low-income housing for the elderly and handicapped.
  • Grants under Title III to Indian tribal organizations
  • Home care
  • Legal services
  • Home renovation/repair was mandated as priority services.
  • Community Service Employment grant program for low-income persons, age 55 and older
  • In-home services for the frail elderly
  • Long-term care ombudsman
  • Health education and promotion
  • Prevention of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation; and outreach activities for persons, who may be eligible for benefits under supplemental security income (SSI),
  • Medicaid
  • Food stamps
  • Additional emphasis was given to serving those in the greatest economic and social need, including low-income minorities.
  • 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act extended protection from discrimination in employment and public accommodations to persons with disabilities.
  • “Vulnerable Elder Rights Activities” which included the long-term care ombudsman; prevention of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation; elder rights and legal assistance development; and benefits outreach, counseling and assistance programs.

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