Older Americans Act Continues to Protect Older Adults

Older Americans ProtectionIt’s been 10 years since the Older Americans Act was last reauthorized by Congress, but as of last week, the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2016 was signed into law by President Obama.

The Older Americans Act (OAA) originally passed in 1965, the same year Medicare and Medicaid were added to the Social Security Act. It was a banner year for older Americans, establishing funding for needed medical care and social services.

The OAA has evolved over its 50-year history, and each successive reauthorization adds to, or refines the priorities to better meet the needs of aging Americans. Today, 11 million older adults receive services through this program.

Some of the programs created and funded by the OAA

  •  Area Agencies on Aging (there are five in Connecticut)
  • A national nutrition program – home delivered meals, and meals in congregate homes
  • Senior centers
  • Transportation services

How the OAA has provided leadership and spurred innovation:

  • The 1984 reauthorization tasked state and area agencies on aging with coordinating community services to help older adults remain independent in the community.
  • In 1987, the OAA further expanded its sphere of influence to include:
    • In-home services for the elderly
    • A long-term care ombudsman to advocate for people in nursing homes
    • Assistance for people with special needs
    • Health education and promotion
    • Elder abuse prevention
    • Outreach to raise awareness of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid and food stamps.
  • Recognizing the immense value of the care provided by families, in 2000, the National Family Caregiver Support Program was established by OAA to fund a range of supports and help family and informal caregivers care for loved ones at home for as long as possible.
  • In 2006, the concept of self-directed care emerged as a priority, recognizing that consumers have the right to design their own care plans, and hire caregivers they choose.

In its latest iteration, the OAA’s funding increases by 6%; it prioritizes improved nutrition with the inclusion of locally sourced foods, as well as funding for the services of registered dieticians; it raises the role of Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) and Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) in providing information and referral services to help people remain in the community.

For 50 years, the Older Americans Act has been instrumental in saving millions of dollars a year by helping people avoid or delay placement in a nursing home, the most costly long-term care setting.

We applaud the Congress and the President for updating and strengthening this important piece of legislation. It has supported and will continue to support innovation in programming for our aging population, and a safety net that helps millions of people retain their independence to the extent that they are able.

 

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