Older Americans Act's programs are vital to seniors

Editor’s note: This press release was received July 14.

On the 50th Anniversary of the Older Americans Act (OAA), The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) — the nation’s largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to the field of aging — is calling on Congress to reauthorize this vital legislation, which supports programs and services for approximately 11 million individuals and their families.

Through a national network of aging services and funding, the OAA offers a wide range of supports, including home-delivered and congregate meals, disease prevention and health promotion, caregiver support, transportation, Medicare counselors, elder abuse prevention, and workforce preparation.  The act is four years overdue for reauthorization — leading to currently stagnant funding levels and putting its future in jeopardy.

“It cannot be overemphasized how critically important this law is to millions of seniors,” said GSA Executive Director and CEO James Appleby, BPharm, MPH. “Without the supports and services provided by the OAA, many older persons could lose their independence. The human and financial cost of that would be catastrophic.”

Appleby, therefore, said it is vital that the programs enabled by the OAA receive increased funding in order to meet the needs of the aging population.

“The OAA is aimed at adults age 60 and older, a demographic segment that has increased some 30 percent over the past decade. Yet Congressional appropriations have changed little in the same timeframe,” Appleby added.

Nearly one in five older adults receives services under the OAA. For example, its largest program is focused on nutrition, where individuals are provided with meals and nutrition education. Two thirds who receive home-delivered meals rely on this food for half or more of their daily intake; 58 percent of those who receive meals in congregate sites rely on this food for half or more of their daily intake.

The OAA was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 14, 1965.  It was last reauthorized in 2006 for a period of five years. Speaking at the 2015 White House Conference on Aging on July 13, President Barack Obama said he was committed to working with Congress to reauthorize the act.

“Reauthorization will create the opportunity to strengthen and improve these invaluable programs,” Appleby said. “With the nation’s attention focused on aging issues following the White House Conference on Aging, now is the time for Congress to step in and keep the momentum going.”

The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is the nation’s oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging.