What are The Benefits Of The Older Americans Act?
50 years of Success Can it Continue?
By Elizabeth Sukys-Rice, MSW
The Older Americans Act
In 1965 the Older Americans Act was passed under President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration. An initiative known as “Great Society”, whose goal was to improve the quality of life through providing services that would support aging individuals living with dignity and independence in their own homes as long as possible. The Older Americans Act just celebrated its 50th year Anniversary in 2015. In the past five decades, the initiative has provided a national network of aging services and funding, which has helped the older adult thrive in their communities with choice, independence and the opportunity to stay home as long as possible. The program provides services such as meals on wheels (congregate meals) along with other nutrition programs, in-home services, legal services, preventative health and medical services, caregiver support, transportation, job training and elder abuse prevention programs. These programs not only help the Older Adult stay in their homes longer, they help reduce hospitalizations and during home care, saving state and federal funds.
The Older Americans Act (OAA) provides funding to 56 state agencies, more than 600 Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) and 20,000 local service providers. Federal funding filters down to the state level and then directly to the AAA, who contracts with local service providers to provide services such as transportation, meals, in home care and case management to the vulnerable, low income older adult. Over the last 20 years, the program has been losing ground due to the increase in the sheer numbers of the aging population, and the federal funding has not kept up with the needs of the growing older adult population. In most states, many eligible seniors face long waiting periods for services. The 2016 FY budget proposes a $138 million dollar increase to the OAA funding along with an additional $60 million increase for the congregate and home delivered meal programs per state.
Nationwide Network AAA Workforce
The Area Agency on Aging has a presence in most states (based on population), in 2014 there were a total of 618 agencies servicing the older adult. The AAA presence is based on how the organization can directly affect the older adult population numbers. The example provided on the N4A.org website, Wisconsin has 3 AAA’s and New York has 59. The organization functions primarily with the support of local volunteers, minimal full-time staff and a smaller amount of part-time workers. The average annual budget is somewhere between $138 and $292 million.
The Area Agency on Aging has partnerships with formal and informal entities. Here is a list of the most common nationwide entities.
- Adult Protective Services
- Transportation agencies
- Medicaid agencies
- Advocacy organizations
- Emergency Preparedness agencies
- Mental Health organizations
- Disability service organizations
- Public Housing Authority
- Community health care providers
- Managed Care/HMO networks
Fundamental Mission Expands
The Area Agency on Aging offers five core services: Caregiver, Nutrition, Health & Wellness, Elder Rights (includes abuse prevention and long-term care ombudsman programs) and Supportive Services. The Area Agency on Aging offers several other programs specific to their demographic scope of needs. Most commonly, these regional programs are health promotion programs, insurance counseling and case management.
Growing services include:
- Evidence-Based Health and Wellness – http://www.aoa.gov/AoA_Programs/HPW/index.aspx
- Nursing Home Diversion – http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us/doea/medicaid_waiver.php
- Integrated Care – Veterans Directed HCBS, Medicaid Managed Care, State Duals Demonstration, Medicaid Demonstration Waiver
- Care Transitions – http://www.aoa.acl.gov/AoA_Programs/Tools_Resources/Care_Transitions.aspx
- Livable Communities – Programs that address housing, transportation, land usage, coalitions to promote coordination across service areas, and projects to promote aging in place.
How to Connect
The Area Agency on Aging offers local hotlines and or websites that provide information and assistance to the older adult population. The national Eldercare Locator toll-free hotline is – 1-800-677-1116 or visit www.edlercare.gov. The support services can be found there and are available to those in need.
Information for this post was provided by the following organizations:
National Association of Area Agencies on Aging 1730 Rhode Island Avenue, NW, Suite 1200, Washington, DC 20036 • 202.872.0888 www.n4a.org • www.facebook.com/n4aACTION • www.twitter.com/n4aACTION