The Older Americans Act (OAA) is a federal law that promotes the well-being of Americans 60+ through services and programs designed to meet the specific needs of older citizens. There are many different organizations and programs under the OOA that are outlined in this article.
Aging services provided under the Older Americans Act include:
- Home-delivered and communal meals
- Family caregiver support programs
- Health services (sometimes called “health promotion")
- Nutrition programs
- Benefits enrollment
- Home assistance
- Job training and volunteer opportunities
- Protections from older adult abuse
Organizations that work closely with the OAA, such as the Administration for Community Living (ACL), also promote "aging in place." This helps older adults plan to utilize OAA services to stay in their homes and live independently as long as possible.
Objectives of the Older Americans Act
Concerns about the lack of community-based support services for older people helped spur the passage of the Older Americans Act in 1965.
Like Medicare and Medicaid, Congress passed the Older Americans Act as part of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society reforms.
Along with the services outlined above, the OAA seeks to ensure:
- Retirement income
- Physical and mental health
- Suitable housing
- Protection from age-based discrimination
- Protection from disability discrimination
- Efficient community services for older individuals
The OAA works to accomplish these goals through:
- Direct federal funding to states
- Direct funding to state service providers
- Creation of federal agencies designed to implement the Act
Title III of the OOA outlines requirements for grants for tribal, state, and community Programs on Aging.
The Administration on Aging (AoA): Basics
The Older Americans Act also created the Administration on Aging (AoA). This is the main federal agency tasked with carrying out the objectives of the Act. It works through a contract with the Administration for Community Living. These different groups fall under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Administration on Aging provides services and programs to help aging individuals live independently in their homes and communities.
Perhaps the most well-known of these programs is the communal home-delivered meals program. One of the most famous programs is Meals on Wheels America. In addition to meals, this program focuses on health and nutrition education.
National Center on Law and Elder Rights (NCLER) Basics
The National Center on Law and Elder Rights (NCLER) focuses on protecting older individuals from abuse, neglect, and exploitation through strategic planning and research. It is another part of the Administration for Community Living (ACL) that falls under the Older Americans Act.
Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program Basics
The Older Americans Act also created the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. This program provides full-time ombudspersons or public advocates. These advocates help represent people's interests in long-term care environments, such as assisted living facilities.
OAA Programs for Employment and Training
Finally, the OAA funds employment and training programs for low-income, unemployed people 55 years old and above. This program has helped more than 1 million participants enter or re-enter the workforce.
State and Area Agencies on Aging
The Older Americans Act funds many programs for older adults through direct grants to states. Each state receives OAA funds based on the percentage of people 60 or above.
OAA funding is small compared to programs such as Medicaid. But it provides an important safety net for older individuals who might be at risk of hunger, food insecurity, or loss of independent living.
Each state must create a State Agency on Aging as part of the Older Americans Act. These State Agencies, in turn, manage their Area Agencies on Aging (AAA). Each agency plans, develops, and coordinates community services for older people.
These agencies also connect older individuals to the important services of the Older Americans Act. You can check online to find the area agency nearest to you.
Who Is Eligible for Services Under the Older Americans Act?
Each state establishes its own eligibility criteria for receiving services under OAA programs. Generally, no one age 60 or above can be denied services from Older American Act programs.
States are prohibited from denying anyone services because of their income. That means that someone who might earn too much to qualify for services directed at low-income individuals would still be able to receive benefits provided under OAA state programs. Contacting a State Agency on Aging will help you determine which services are available to you.
When To Seek Professional Help for These Programs
If you're wondering about your rights as you age or if you're caring for an aging parent or family member, consider contacting a qualified older adult law attorney to discuss the unique issues you may face. They can help you understand these programs, benefits, and rights under the OOA.