In a sense, the Older Americans Act of 1965 was both ahead of its time and long overdue. Overdue, in that any government concerned with social welfare needs a comprehensive infrastructure to ensure the well-being of the senior citizens it serves, those citizens who’ve already contributed so many years to sustaining a nation. But the OAA was also ahead of its time in that the components born of this legislation – while needed globally – are hardly universal, and that the generation likely to see the greatest benefits of the law were somewhere between 1 to 20 years old at the time of its passage.
Of those components, the most far-reaching was the establishment of the Administration on Aging (AoA), now part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Community Living. These entities exist to improve the lives of Americans, with a particular emphasis on the lives of seniors. The AoA works to inform seniors of whatever benefits are available to them at federal and state levels. As the Older Americans Act is reauthorized, it provides funding for a number of AoA programs, such as Community Living Program grants to help seniors continue to age in the communities they know; and the Alzheimer’s Disease Supportive Services Program, which educates Americans about Alzheimer’s and helps local service providers better assist those in need.
The Older Americans Act Has One Ongoing Goal: Improve The Lives Of America’s Senior Citizens
Notably, congressional reauthorization of the Older Americans Act in 2006 allowed for the establishment of the Community Innovations for Aging in Place Initiative to “assist communities in their efforts to enable older adults to sustain their independence and age in place in their homes and communities,” as explained by the AoA.
Obviously, aging in place is a funding priority of the Older Americans Act and the institutions it has spawned. While the federal government cannot realistically provide for the needs of all, the Older Americans Act has provided tools for the nation’s senior citizens to live fuller lives. It is recognition of a country’s commitment to its seniors, as those seniors have in the breadth of their lives committed themselves in innumerable ways to their country and communities.
The responsibility remains, however, with any senior citizen – and his loved ones and caregivers – to learn what programs are available, and which are suitable to his particular situation. With the AoA’s very user-friendly website, aoa.gov, standing by, it’s an education at one’s fingertips, one nearly guaranteed to provide an abundance of information that can be directly applied to improving the life of any senior American.