The Older American Act - What Is It?

As far back as 1998, of 270 million Americans, about 43 million are 60 years or older.  This year, the first Baby Boomer retired.  On July 14, 1965 the Older Americans Act (AoA) was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.  The act established the Administration on Aging within the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.  Two years later, the Age Discrimination Act was signed into law.  The basic premise of the law is advocacy for aging Americans.  We will discuss the Older American Act in this article, and how it pertains to you.

The Older American Act

The AoA (Older American Act) administers key programs at the Federal level.  It is designed to allow older Americans to stay in their homes and also provides services for them.  Title III of the Act covers nutrition, transportation, senior center, health promotion, and homemaker services.  Title VI deals with the needs of older American Indians, Aleuts, Eskimos and Hawaiians. Title VII covers elder rights programs (including the nursing home ombudsman program), legal services, outreach public benefit and insurance counseling and elder abuse prevention efforts.  The AoA awards funds to support research, demonstration and training programs.

How Funds Are Allocated

Each State Agency on Aging receives funds depending on the number of older people in the state.  Almost all states are divided into Planning and Service Areas (PSAs) because localities better understand the needs of the senior citizens in their area.  State Agencies then provides funds to 660 Area Agencies on Aging (AAA).  These AAAs can cover anything from a very large city to several counties in a sparsely populated area.

The AAAs contract with both public and private groups to provide services.  There are around 27,000 service provider agencies in the United States.  If for some reason an area does not have a local contractor, the AAA can act as the service provider.  The good thing here is that anyone who is concerned about the welfare of a senior citizen can contact the local AAA to find out about services, benefits and referral agencies.  Here is how supportive services are classified:

  • Access Services: provide information and referrals, provide outreach to the senior, do case management and provide escorts and transportation.
  • In home services: provide basic day care services such as personal care, keeping the home, Meals On Wheels, home repair and rehabilitation.
  • Community services: provide senior centers, group meals, day care, elder abuse prevention and health and fitness programs.
  • Caregiver services: provide counseling, respite and educational programs.

The AoA also advocates for seniors by partnering with local agencies, contractors, business and labor and church and civic programs.

How Effective Is the AoA?

The government has done a good job in tracking the performance of this act.  They work hard to ensure that information provided by each state is accurate.  AoA's success in these areas has been recognized by its Program Assessment Reporting Tool (PART). Formal assessment is conducted by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). AoA targets three things - program efficiency, client outcomes and effective targeting.  The Aging Services Program received an Effective rating from OMB in the 2007 PART rating process.  This is good news for seniors.

Strategic Goals

The goals of the AoA have shown that the act is making headway and is being effective:

  • Reduce the major threats to the health and well-being of Americans - 90%.
  • Enhance the ability of the Nation's health care system to effectively respond to terrorism and other public health challenges. The agency met their goal, serving 89,034 seniors.
  • Increase the percentage of the Nation's children's and adults who have access to regular health care services and expand consumer choices. 67% of the population targeted was served.
  • Enhance the capacity and productivity of the Nation's health science research enterprise. This encompasses goals such as establishing an Alaskan Native Stroke Registry, and beginning to enroll patients. They have met their goal.
  • Improve the quality of health care services. The goal to expand actively participating sites in the MedSun Network to 71 percent was met, with a reporting of 86%.
  • The goal to improve the economic and social well-being of individuals, families, and communities, especially those in most need was deferred in 2007.  Its goal was 61%.
  • The goal to improve the stability and health development of our nation's children and youth was also deferred in 2007.
  • The goal to achieve excellence in management practices was met for 2007.  They sought to reduce the percentage of improper payments made under the Medicare fee-for-service Program.

The Older American Act is making great strides in seeing that the needs of the senior citizens of this country are met.  Look for this agency to improve in the future.

Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.