Older Americans Act is finally reauthorized, but requires proper funding

Editor’s Note: This press statement was received on April 21, 2016.

The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) — the nation’s largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to the field of aging — is congratulating both President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress for reauthorizing the Older Americans Act (OAA), a vital piece of legislation that supports programs and services for approximately 11 million individuals and their families. GSA is also calling for Congress to fund, at a minimum, OAA programs at their authorized levels for Fiscal Year 2017.

The OAA was five years overdue for reauthorization, which has not been helpful in securing much-needed funding increases.

“This law is critically important to millions of older adults,” said GSA Executive Director and CEO James Appleby, BSPharm, MPH. “Without the supports and services provided by the OAA, many people could lose their independence. The human and financial cost of that would be enormous.”

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 jobs and workforce preparation. It also funds the long-term care ombudsman program, which helps resolve complaints in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and protects the rights of vulnerable residents.

Appleby added that it was vital that Congress also approve the funding increases that the law authorizes.

“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 said.

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 of those 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.

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.