New Report Examines Challenges Older Americans Face in Accessing Vital Services in Rural Communities

Report requested by Senators Collins, Casey offers recommendations on ways to help local agencies and providers better serve rural older adults

Click HERE to read the GAO’s report


Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the Chairman of the Aging Committee, announced that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report she requested with Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) on home and community-based services for older adults in rural areas. 


The report, titled “Older Americans Act: HHS Could Help Rural Service Providers by Centralizing Information on Promising Practices,” details some of the challenges rural adults may face to access services and offers recommendations on ways to help local agencies and providers better serve rural older adults.


“Older Americans in rural towns face unique challenges in obtaining the services and support they need, especially as many seek to remain in their own homes and communities,” said Senator Collins.  “GAO’s close examination of conditions in rural counties across the country sheds light on how lack of transportation, housing in disrepair, and limited broadband Internet make it especially hard for rural Americans to receive nourishing meals, engage in community activities, and reach medical appointments. The Older Americans Act, which I am championing, provides critical funds for these communities. GAO’s work contributes to our understanding of these vital issues.”


GAO analyzed 2017 Administration for Community Living (ACL) data and interviewed service providers in 12 rural localities in eight states: Maine, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and California. 


GAO’s report found that rural older adults face challenges in accessing services due to three primary factors:


  • Limited infrastructure with few transportation options and poorly maintained roads; older housing in need of repairs; and limited technology in some areas, including broadband Internet, making it more difficult to provide information to older adults;


  • Dispersed population with long distances that hamper access to services; and,


  • Economic trends marked by a dwindling working-age population resulting in fewer potential workers and caregivers, as well as a growing aging population eligible for services.


In order to address these challenges, GAO recommends that the ACL better centralize access to and promote awareness of information pertinent to serving rural older adults, an issue that is addressed in the Older Americans Act (OAA) reauthorization.


Chairman Collins and Ranking Member Casey are leading the bipartisan coalition of Senators working on the reauthorization, which includes Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) as well as Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).


Senators Collins and Doug Jones (D-AL) also recently introduced the American Broadband Buildout Act of 2019 (ABBA), a bipartisan bill to ensure that rural Americans have access to broadband services.