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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

A Senior Moment: Legislative Update

Marsha Andrews, J.D.
Marsha Andrews, J.D.

By Marsha Andrews, J.D.

There has been a lot of legislative activity regarding older adults over the years. As an advocate, and baby boomer, it is important to have certain legislation always in the forefront of our thoughts. The Older Americans Act (OAA) is vitally important for everyone age 60 and older.

President Harry Truman initiated the first national Conference on Aging in 1950, followed by the first appropriation of funding for social service programs under the Social Security Act. Later, the Housing Act, during the late 1950’s, served as a loan program for the creation of affordable housing projects for the elderly.

As more people retired during the early 1960’s, legislation was introduced in Congress to establish an independent Commission on Aging. The Older American Act was then signed into law in 1965, which established the Administration on Aging. Medicare was established under Title 18, which created a health insurance program for the older adults. Medicaid followed, under Title 19, for low-income persons. Both became a part of the Social Security Act.

Comprehensive Services Amendments established Area Agencies on Aging (AAA), such as Aging and Disability Services that serves Seattle and King County. Title 5 authorized grants to local community agencies for multi-purpose senior centers and also created the Community Service Employment grant program for low-income individuals age 55 and older.

During the 1970’s, more authorized state grants were mandated as priority services, such as transportation services, homemaker services, adult day care, employment assistance, nutrition services and health support. Indian tribal organizations were also given grants for home care, legal services, and home repair/renovation services.

The Congregate Housing Services Act was passed in the late 1970’s. This was a collaborative effort between local housing agencies and non-profit corporations with the goal of providing independent congregate living programs.

During the 1980’s, reauthorizations of the Older Americans Act reaffirmed the roles of states and Area Agencies on Aging (AAA). It allowed AAA’s to maintain their accountability for funding for priority services. OAA reauthorizations also added appropriations for services, such as in-home services for the frail elderly, long-term care ombudsman, assistance for special needs, and for prevention of elder abuse.

In the 90’s and beyond, the OAA increased its focus on intergenerational programs, elder rights and caregivers, which is significant due to the number of baby boomers who are now taking care of their elderly parent and family members.

Reauthorizations usually occur every five years, however, Senate Bill 192 is significant because on January 28, 2015, the U.S. Senate’s Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved a three-year reauthorization of the Older Americans Act during its first markup of the 114th Congress. The legislation passed the full Senate without any opposition on July 16, 2015. By a unanimous vote, the Senate approved the House amendments on April 7, and the bill was signed into law by President Obama on April 19, 2016.

We should all pay close attention to, and advocate for, the Older Americans Act. It affects our lives of older adults every day. Consider joining AARP and the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and become an advocate for older adults. It will be worth your time and attention.

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