Why Are We?
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July 14, 1965
The Older Americans Act was a response to Congressional concerns about the lack of community social services for senior citizens, especially those at risk of losing their independence.
The Older Americans Act focuses on improving the lives of older people in the areas of income, housing, health, employment, retirement and community services.
The Older Americans Act established the Area Agencies on Aging and the National Aging Network.
The federally funded Older Americans Act provides a variety of in-home and community-based services without cost to persons 60+ through the “aging network”. While people 60 years and older are eligible for Older Americans Act programs, services are funded for individuals with the greatest economic and social need. Support services for family caregivers are also available.
Statement by Assistant Secretary Greenlee on the 45th Anniversary of the Signing of the Older Americans Act
On July 14, 1965 President Johnson signed the Older Americans Act into law. Sixteen days later, on July 30, he signed legislation creating Medicare and Medicaid. These three programs, along with Social Security enacted in 1935, have served as the foundation for economic, health and social support for millions of seniors, individuals with disabilities and their families. Because of these programs, millions of older Americans have lived more secure, healthier and meaningful lives. The Older Americans Act has quietly but effectively provided nutrition and community support to millions. It has also protected the rights of seniors, and in many cases, has been the key to independence.
In 1965, there were about 26 million Americans age 60 and over. Today, there are 57 million older Americans 60 and over, with many more on the immediate horizon. Our senior population is not only growing larger, but becoming more diverse. Adults over 80 are our fastest growing group, and many will need long term care. Reliance on family members, who currently provide 80 percent of the long term care assistance for our nation’s seniors, will increase.
The historic enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by President Obama on March 23, 2010 provides us with another tremendous opportunity to harness the successes and progress of the last four decades to further improve the health and lives of older Americans and support their caregivers. The ACA represents the biggest change in our national health care delivery system since 1965. And just as they were in 1965, the programs of the Older Americans Act - and our national aging network of state, tribal and community-based organizations, service providers, volunteers and family caregivers - will be called upon to complement, support and enhance these changes. How successfully we weave these multiple responsibilities together will say much for how we will care for seniors in the future.