by Holly Glen Gearhart
In 1965, then-president Lyndon B. Johnson sought and got approval to create laws which improved the quality of life for many Americans. It began with his visionary “Great Society” and included legislation that would begin the “War on Poverty,” among them The Older Americans Act of 1965.
These acts formed federal laws that upheld such advances in our society as the guarantee of civil rights for all and established Medicare and Medicaid. The Older Americans Act (OAA) would come to provide financial aid from the federal to the state level to enhance, if not outright establish, first-time comprehensive services for older adults.
Below are the seven titles under the Act:
- Title I is a declaration of objectives.
- Title II establishes the Administration on Aging to carry out the provisions of the act.
- Title III Grants for State and Community Programs of Aging
- Title IV Funds activities for senior health initiatives that maintain independence and longevity.
- Title V Community service senior opportunities-and establishes a program for hiring low-income senior citizens in community service and volunteer opportunities.
- Title VI establishes grants for Native American senior programs.
- Title VII established state grants addressing “elder rights protection” programs including protection from elder abuse.
The Older Americans Act lived from 1965 to 2011 and was readily reenacted over that time. However, in September of 2012, the push to reenact this legislation died. Senator Bernard “Bernie” Sanders [I-VT] reintroduced the act last September along with amendments designed to bring the act into the 21st century, among them extending civil rights protections to more groups.
The act was sent to committee, where it remains today.
There is some fear the OAA may loose its legs in committee, where many bills go to die, and much-needed financial support for our growing senior population will die with the act.
You may think this is a government boondoggle, but consider the services it provides, such as Meals on Wheels, which delivers warmable meals to millions of homebound seniors. Those are often the only warm meals they get. Hunger among the senior population is growing and will impact the health and well-being of some 80 million daily-retiring Boomers.
Nutritious food served by senior centers, Meals on Wheels, and purchased through SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) and a host of other comprehensive services are on the chopping block. Nutrition greatly influences our mental and physical health and quality of life. Reducing funding for these programs will, in the long run, add to the burden of the overrun health care industry. Many lifestyle diseases and physical ailments are managed if not outright avoided with diet and exercise, so the question is; pay now or pay later?
The Older Americans Act created the National Aging Network including the Administration on Aging on the federal level, state initiatives on aging and area agencies on aging at the local level. The national aging network provides funding to the population aged 60 and older.
Nutrition and supportive home and community-based services depend on this network as they promote good health and created the National Family Caregiver Support Program and the Native American Caregiver Support Program.
I will follow the progress, or lack thereof, of the Older Americans Act in coming weeks.