What it does
While the Older Americans Act name may not be familiar to you, many of the services and funds the law provides are widely recognized, such as Meals on Wheels, senior centers, elder abuse prevention and low-income community service employment. It saves Medicaid and Medicare considerable amounts of money through its services which allow older adults to remain in the community or at home while receiving medical care, choices which are also preferred by older adults. It is a job creator and job retainer program in communities.
In 2006 Congress reauthorized the act in its entirety, effective through FY 2011. Unfortunately, this law is four years late in being reauthorized. Congress has not updated or renewed its commitment to the programs developed under OAA. The Senate has moved the process to the point where an excellent bill, S. 1562, has been voted out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and awaits full Senate action. The House currently has two pending bills but no sign of any action.
The impact of the lack of services
The isolation of seniors will only magnify when
senior centers are no longer maintained and staffed. Some elders who depend on meal provisions will turn to the cheapest and least healthful choices as their only options.
As with so many other programs needing aid for those who have less or who are unable to take care of themselves, the reasons are political and, personally, I’m saddened and embarrassed by this fact.
The average age at death in 1900 was 49 and today it is 79. Additionally, the number of seniors living into their 90’s will quadruple by mid-century. These two statistics are significant because they clearly show a ballooning sector of our nation’s population. Isn’t it a slap in their collective faces to say, “Well, you got this far; now you’re on your own”? The life the rest of us live today was forged on the backs of these seniors.
I believe the OAA has proven its value and, unfortunately, will have to limp along until lack of funding runs the various programs into the ditch. Seniors who rely on assistance provided in these programs will be silent pillars that once held up the community but now must scrape around to repair their crumbing bases.
Let’s all envision a country that supports its senior community. And so it is.