Last Thursday, seniors across the country got some much needed good news. The Older Americans Re-Authorization Act unanimously passed the Senate. The bill will provide millions of seniors with access to social and nutrition programs.
The Older Americans Act was first enacted in 1965. It supports services such as Meals-On-Wheels, transportation, legal services, elder abuse prevention and caregivers. This allows seniors to stay independent longer and avoid some hospitalizations and nursing home care. The OAA promotes dignity and involvement in the local community, while providing essential supportive services. Generally the program is available to those 60 and over, but low income older adults and those living in rural areas also can qualify. Most of the services provided by the OAA are free of charge, but occasionally donations or cost sharing are requested.
Although the OAA provides critical services, it has consistently been underfunded by government and has not been able to keep up with our rapidly increasing senior population. Sadly, these problems have caused restricted access to OAA programs and many seniors are put on wait lists for services. The number of seniors citizens in America is expected to grow to 92 million by 2030, making OAA funding just that much more important.
“When President John F. Kennedy designated the first Older Americans Month in 1963, only 17 million living Americans had reached age 65 and about one-third of them lived in poverty,” said Democrat James J. Devine. “Today, seniors are able to live longer and more independently with the help of programs such as Medicare, Social Security and those supported by the Older Americans Act.”
According to Senator Elizabeth Warren, a co-sponsor of the bill, the Older Americans Re-Authorization Act will strengthen core programs of the OAA and adds other provisions for things such as dental care and elder abuse protections. The bill also allows for a funding increase of 7% over the next three years.
Senator Bernie Sanders summed it up best when he said, “Providing older Americans with the resources they need to stay healthy and at home is not only the right thing to do, it makes good economic sense. Investing in Meals on Wheels and other Older Americans Act programs will help keep seniors healthy and out of expensive hospitals and nursing homes.