The Older Americans Act and service enrichment for seniors

The Older Americans Act is one of the most successful pieces of legislation in American history– and it’s long overdue for reauthorization. Find out how it serves older adults and facilitates Praxia Partners’ service-enriched senior housing.

Praxia Partners helped develop service-enriched senior communities that address a fundamental question: What makes a good life?

Service enrichment for seniors, based on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, by Praxia Partners“We just work our way up the chain, from the most essential to the most aspirational,” said Praxia Partners’ founder and CEO, Joe Recchie, referencing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. “The first objective is to get housing safe, and secure, and high quality, but at a sustainably low rental price. It doesn’t help to have a very low introductory rental rate if you can’t sustain it.”

The Older Americans Act (OAA) plays a big role in the resources available to meet this ambitious goal.

One of the most important aspects of the Act’s success was the creation of the Area Agencies on Aging, which act as the linchpin for the OAA’s senior services, advocating for consumers and coordinating the bulk of the OAA’s initiatives and support the health and well-being of older adults. For instance, in the case of Sharon Glyn, eligible seniors meet with care managers from the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging that help them navigate their supports and service options.

“Having a case manager helping a senior along with a loved one also gives some relief to that caregiver,” said Recchie.

Sharon Glyn

The OAA authorizes congregate meals (where residents enjoy daily, community lunches at no cost), which Recchie singled out as perhaps the most important service because it combines social interaction with nutritious meals. Additionally, the OAA also supports other valuable services such as Meals on Wheels.

About the Older Americans Act

The Act, passed in 1965, established and financed programs designed to enrich the lives of seniors and their loved ones. Every five years, the OAA must be reauthorization by Congress. This time, Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent, Vermont) is sponsoring the OAA. On October 30, 2013, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions unanimously backed reauthorization.

The OAA enjoys widespread, bipartisan support, yet (perhaps unsurprisingly) its funding fuels debate. A 2006 provision tweaked the funding formula, and some states with rapidly growing older populations feel that they’re not receiving corresponding increases in support. Even before last spring’s sequestration, funding for the OAA has neither kept up with inflation nor the dramatic rise of America’s older population.

Despite lagging financing, the OAA has changed the lives of countless Americans.

The Act is:

  • Comprehensive. The Act includes funding for preventive care, advocacy, nutrition programs, caregiver support, transportation assistance and much more.
  • Cost-effective. The Act enjoys widespread, bipartisan support, yet (perhaps unsurprisingly) its funding fuels debate. A 2006 provision tweaked the funding formula, and some states with rapidly growing older populations feel that they’re not receiving corresponding increases in support. Even before last spring’s sequestration, funding for the OAA has neither kept up with inflation nor the dramatic rise of America’s older population.
  • Compassionate. Helping older Americans stay as independent as possible doesn’t just make fiscal sense, “it’s morally the right thing to do,” said Sanders. The OAA has been particularly crucial for low-income seniors. When the OAA was first passed, the percentage of the population over 60 was about 12%. By 2030, it will be twice that. Currently, only 11 million of the 57 million older adults eligible for its services receive them. With proper funding, however, the OAA will continue to support the health and well-being of seniors, individuals with disabilities, and their loved ones.

You can share your support for OAA reauthorization by contacting your Senator (especially Republican lawmakers) and learn more about its current status.

About Holly

Holly Jensen is a writer and poet who has worked with nonprofits and businesses for over a decade. She also serves as editor of The Ghazal Page, an international literary journal.
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