What Is the Older Americans Act (OAA)?

The Older Americans Act (OAA) is a federal law that promotes the well-being of Americans over 60 through elder care services and advocacy programs designed to meet the specific needs of older adults. There are many organizations and programs under the OAA outlined in this article.

The elder care services provided under the Older Americans Act include:

  • Home-delivered and communal meals
  • Family caregiver support programs
  • Senior centers
  • Legal information and referral services
  • Health care services (sometimes called “health promotion")
  • Nutrition programs
  • Benefits enrollment
  • Transportation
  • In-home care help through The National Family Caregiver Support Program
  • Job training and volunteer opportunities
  • Elder abuse prevention and protection programs

Organizations that work closely with the OAA, such as the Administration for Community Living (ACL) and the National Institute on Aging (NIA), also promote "aging in place." This helps older adults live independently as long as possible.

Objectives of the Older Americans Act

Concerns about the lack of community-based services for older people helped spur passage of the Older Americans Act in 1965. The OAA intended to help those with the “greatest social need."

Like Medicare and Medicaid, Congress passed the Older Americans Act as part of President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society reforms.

Along with the support services outlined above, the OAA seeks to ensure the following:

  • Retirement planning and income
  • Physical and mental health
  • Suitable housing
  • Employment
  • Protection from age-discrimination
  • Protection from disability discrimination
  • Efficient community service outreach for older people

The OAA works to meet these goals through:

  • Direct federal funding to states
  • Direct federal funding to state service providers
  • Creation of federal agencies designed to implement the Act

Also, Title III-B of the OAA outlines federal grant funds 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). The AoA is the primary federal agency tasked with carrying out the objectives of the Act. It works through a contract with the Administration for Community Living. The ACL and the AoA are the principal agencies of 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. For example, the AoA, in partnership with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), designed the Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRC). The ADRC is present in 43 states and provides advice and resources to older adults and people with disabilities.

Perhaps the most well-known of these programs is the communal home-delivered meals program. One of the most famous nutrition service programs is Meals on Wheels America. Besides meals, the 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 promoting elder justice and protecting older people from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. The NCLER develops strategic policy directives and provides technical help with legal issues. 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 who are public advocates for elder rights protection in nursing facilities. These advocates help represent people's interests in long-term care facilities and nursing homes.

OAA Programs for Employment and Training

Finally, the OAA funds employment and training programs for low-income, unemployed people 55 and older. 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 who are 60 or older.

OAA funding is small compared with programs such as Medicaid. But it provides an important safety net for older adults at risk of hunger, food insecurity, or loss of independent living.

Each state must create a State Unit 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 AAAs and thousands of other OAA-related social service providers make up The Aging Network.

These agencies also connect older people to the essential services of the Older Americans Act. You can check online to find the area agency in your service area.

Who Is Eligible for Services Under the Older Americans Act?

Each state establishes its eligibility criteria for receiving services under OAA programs. Generally, a person 60 or older cannot be denied benefits from Older American Act programs.

States can't deny anyone services because of their income. That means that someone who might earn too much to qualify for services for low-income individuals would still be able to receive benefits provided under OAA state programs. Contacting a State Unit on Aging will help you determine available services.

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 elder law attorney for legal help. An elder law attorney can help you understand the benefits afforded to you under the OAA and provide unique legal services on various elder rights issues.

If you or someone you know is experiencing elder abuse, immediately contact Adult Protective Services (APS) or your local law enforcement. After making a report, APS can help you access the OAA's elder abuse resources and programs.

Was this helpful?

Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Complex elder law situations usually require a lawyer
  • A lawyer can reduce the chances of a family dispute
  • Get tailored advice and ask your legal questions. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

 If you need an attorney, find one right now