As people grow older, retirement and rising health care costs eat away at their income. This can make it difficult for seniors to afford necessities like food and housing. Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security certainly help reduce that income gap, but there is another program in place to help seniors, although many don’t realize it – the Older Americans Act.
The Older Americans Act (OAA) is a piece of legislation passed by Congress in 1965 under President Lyndon B. Johnson that aims to provide resources to a growing senior population. The initial act established the Administration on Aging, which is the federal agency responsible for overseeing the implementation of OAA programs. Grants fund State Units on Aging – and as of 1973, Area Agencies on Aging – so they can provide resources to local communities.
The OAA has been reauthorized several times over the years. The most recent reauthorization was in 2016 under President Barack Obama, and that reauthorization is for three years.
Technically speaking, any American age 60 and older is eligible to receive the services provided by the OAA. However, there are more than 49.2 million senior adults in the United States as of 2016, and only $1.88 billion available as of fiscal year 2014.1,2 The amount allocated to OAA programs has stagnated over the years, lagging behind inflation.
Simply put, there is not enough money to serve every American senior under the OAA. While is no mandate within federal law that states OAA money must go toward seniors that meet certain qualifications, states make their own rules regarding local distribution of funds.
Despite its limited funding, the OAA covers a lot of ground. Its overall goal is to ensure older Americans have a good quality of life. The OAA offers community services, combats hunger and food insecurity, provides care and establishes advocates for seniors. This allows seniors to be more independent, active and engaged in their communities.
Some specific services provided include:
More than 40 percent of the OAA budget goes toward providing meals and nutrition counseling to seniors.2 The Meals on Wheels program has combined federal funding with donations from corporate sponsors to serve nearly 218,000,000 meals over the course of the program’s existence.3 Funding is divvied up between congregate meals at gathering places like senior centers and home-delivered meals for seniors who may have limited access to transportation or physical disabilities.
Low-income adults age 55 and older may receive job training and part-time job placement via the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). This gives them extra income, community and a sense of purpose. Two-thirds of SCSEP participants are women, and nearly one half belong to a racial or ethnic minority group.4
About a fifth of funding goes toward a wide variety of community and health services, including senior centers, adult day care, transportation, legal assistance and home care.2
The OAA helps fund the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP). This program assists non-professional caregivers who give their time and energy to their older family members. Caregivers have access to training, respite, counseling and information services. In limited circumstances, supplemental caregiving may be provided.
In fiscal year 2017, 13.9 million dollars went to elder rights support, including Adult Protective Services, the Elder Justice Initiative and Long-Term Care Ombudsmen programs.5 This funding ensures seniors are not abused or neglected, especially seniors in long-term care and those who have cognitive or physical disabilities.
Having served Atlanta as a nonprofit for nearly 115 years, A.G. Rhodes Health & Rehab has seen many shifts in older adult care. We recognize that many aging American adults feel unheard and unsupported, which is why we strive to provide high-quality care and develop a sense of community for all our elders through social activities and events.
Our caregivers provide long-term care, short-term recovery, therapy and rehabilitation to seniors in the Atlanta area. Call us today at (877) 918-6413 for more information about our community.