The Older Americans Act was enacted in 1965 to assist in the provision of community-based services and in-home services with the aim of preserving the independence of the elderly for as long as possible. By preserving their independence the Act assists in delivering a higher quality of life to the elderly as well as in keeping costly medical bills at minimum by reducing the need for assisted living facilities and other similar programs.
The Act attempts to assist the elderly in retaining their independence and enabling them to remain active citizens in the communities in which they live. To this end, it benefits private citizens. Further, by reducing the demand for services provided for elderly people who are no longer able to live independently, the Act preserves state funds that would otherwise be spent on these types of services.
The benefits of the Act are available to those persons aged 60 and older (in most cases, as the age requirement varies for different services); however, it focuses on providing benefits to those people who have significant financial need. Because of this the services offered by the Act are typically free; however, some services are allowed to charge on a sliding scale based upon the financial condition of the recipient.
Finally, the Act indirectly benefits working-age people in two ways: by offering help to caregivers (thus freeing those caregivers to go seek employment) and by providing employment opportunities—especially in the healthcare field—to many in the communities where the elderly people live.
While a complete exploration of the full range of services provided by the Act is far beyond the scope of this article, in short the Act assists in the provision of services that enable the elderly to remain independent. These services include nutritional programs such as Meals on Wheels, meals offered in various senior centers, and so on. It also provides services to support caregivers, such as providing assistance with adult daycare so caregivers may seek out employment, assistance in running errands, and education on topics such as disease prevention and health promotion.
Funding for the Act has been a problem for more than 20 years. Federal funding is used, as are donations and contributions based on charges assessed on a sliding scale; however, the limited availability of funds combined with the increased need for the Act’s services have combined to create a serious question as to the continued availability of all the services subsidized by the Act.
Although it was passed 50 years ago, the provisions of the Act are not without end or limitation. The Act must be reauthorized by Congress from time to time. As of this writing a bill to do so has been introduced into Congress but not yet passed into law.
Those individuals wishing to follow the progress of efforts to re-authorize the Act may do so at the National Council on Aging’s Website. Further, that site contains more in-depth information on the Act and provides ways that interested parties may become involved in showing their support of the Act and urging Congress to reauthorize it.
The Act provides much-needed services to some of the most vulnerable and needy of people; to this end its reauthorization is a badly-needed step towards caring for the elderly, particularly those with limited financial means.
www.ncpssm.org (website). Older Americans Act. Available at https://www.ncpssm.org/PublicPolicy/OlderAmericans/Documents/ArticleID/1171/Older-Americans-Act. Last visited October 28, 2015.