In 1965, an historical law – The Older Americans Act (OAA) was enacted that protects older Americans’ health, welfare and independence by funding critical community services. These include:
1. Meals delivered to homes for disabled seniors – such programs as Meals on Wheels.
2. Job training – teaching seniors new skills to enable them to get another job.
3. Senior centers across the country – where seniors can socialize, get information about concerns specific to their age group, limited medical screening, etc.
4. Senior caregiving – a database of homecare caregivers, assisted living residences, daycare centers, senior healthcare programs, laws against elder abuse, etc.
5. Transportation – funds public transportation for older Americans who need rides for shopping, community business/recreation, etc.
The OAA gets reauthorized periodically by Congress. It came up for reauthorization in 2011 but nearing the end of 2013, Congress had yet to update it. Senior groups (like AARP) fear that the OAA may have gotten lost in all the other issues Congress has on its crowded table at the moment – funding Obamacare, immigration, the debt ceiling, and looming international security issues. As a result, many of OAA’s programs are underfunded – from spending cuts – but not yet in jeopardy.
In the Senate, an OAA reauthorization bill was introduced by Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) and has gotten 18 Democratic cosponsors but no Republicans. Yet, the OAA has always been one program that all parties feel doesn’t require major changes to and agree with the services to older Americans that the Act provides. The longer the reauthorization is outstanding, many senior groups are afraid that the longstanding program will become more and more vulnerable to Congressional budget cuts.
If you’re concerned about the OAA, contact your local state representative and remind them that older Americans want the OAA to be reauthorized. You can learn more about the OAA at the U.S. government’s Administration on Aging website.