Older Americans Act

The Older American Act

The Older Americans Act (OAA) was originally signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on Jul 14, 1965. The Act created the primary vehicle for organizing, coordinating, and providing community-based services and opportunities for older Americans and their families. The OAA established a National Aging Network, headed by the United States Agencies on Aging (AAAs), tribal organizations, local service providers, and volunteers.

There are 655 Area Agencies on Aging nationwide. Area Agencies on Aging offer information and assistance services providing older persons and their caregivers with specific information about services in the community. All individuals 60 years of age and older are eligible for services under the OAA, although priority attention is given to those who are in greatest need.

There are also 243 programs nationwide that administer Title VI of the Older Americans Act. The Title VI program promotes nutrition and supportive services, such as transportation, to American Indian, Alaskan Natives, and Native Hawaiians. The Title VI program also has an information and assistance service that provides specific information about services in the community.

You should be familiar with your local Area Agency on Aging and Title VI Program. Look in your telephone directory in the blue pages (government listings) or in the yellow pages under Aging, Senior Citizens, Community Services, or Social Services. If you have difficulty locating your local Area Agency on Aging, call the Eldercare Locator toll-free at 800-677-1116, or visit online at http://www.ageinfo.org/elderloc. The Eldercare Locator is a nationwide service to help families and friends find information about community services for seniors. The Eldercare Locator provides access to an extensive network of organizations serving older people at state and local community levels.

The White House New Freedom Initiative

The White House New Freedom Initiative was launched in 2001 to promote the goal of community living for people of all ages with disabilities. Under this initiative, the federal government initiated the Aging and Disability Resource Center Grant Program, a joint effort of the AoA and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). It helps states integrate their supportive services into a single, coordinated system.

Under the initiative, grants have been awarded to 24 states to create one-stop-shopping centers to help consumers learn about and gain access to HCBS and nursing facility care. As of 2004, grants have been awarded to Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and the Northern Mariana Islands. If you live in one of these states, you will soon have a central coordinated system source of HCBS support resources.

The Role of Waivers

The United States Department of Health and Human Services has been allowing more disabled people on Medicaid to receive long-term supportive services outside of nursing homes. Through the use of Medicaid waivers people with disabilities can choose services in their own homes and communities. For example, Nevada has a waiver that allows about 1,700 Medicaid recipients to receive home care, personal care services, respite care, transportation, home-delivered meals, and other services to keep them at home and out of nursing homes.

2-1-1 Services

The Federal Communications Commission has designated 2-1-1 as a national, toll-free telephone number to access information and referral services. In states where the service is unavailable, seniors and others can dial 2-1-1 on any phone and reach an information and referral specialist. The goal in many states is to make the service available 24 hours a day all year and usable by those with hearing impairments, and to provide assistance in many languages.

There are presently 130 active 2-1-1 systems in 26 states (United Way and Alliance of Information and Referral Services, n.d.). 2-1-1 serves approximately 90 million Americans – more than 32 percent of the American population.

Some state 2-1-1 programs are fully functional, while others are in their initial stages. For example, Texas currently has 24 active 2-1-1 call centers. This represents coverage for 90 percent of the Texas population. As of this writing, the El Paso center’s completion, Texas will have 100 percent statewide coverage. On the other hand, in Rhode Island, local I&R and other agencies are just beginning the process of developing a 2-1-1 system.

The information above is reprinted from Working with Seniors: Health, Financial and Social Issues with permission from Society of Certified Senior Advisors® . Copyright © 2009. All rights reserved. www.csa.us