The landmark law supports community-based and nutrition services for older adults and their caregivers, which are particularly important as our country works to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Washington, D.C.—This evening, the U.S. House unanimously passed the Supporting Older Americans Act, bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the Chairman of the Aging Committee. The bill, which unanimously passed the Senate earlier this month, will reauthorize and strengthen the Older Americans Act (OAA), the nation’s preeminent law focused on the wellbeing of seniors. It now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
Since 1965, the OAA has supported and improved the lives of seniors—particularly those who are low-income—through programs that promote nutrition (e.g. Meals on Wheels), improve transportation options, support caregivers, offer employment and community service opportunities, and prevent abuse and neglect. These services are particularly important to our nation’s seniors as our country works to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. This critical law was last reauthorized in 2016.
“For more than half a century, the Older Americans Act has served as a lifeline for millions of seniors by enriching their lives and improving their overall health,” said Senator Collins. “This bipartisan legislation will help ensure that the OAA continues to match the goals we set to permit seniors to age with dignity, respect, and community. As Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, it was one of my highest priorities to get this bill across the finish line to strengthen the OAA’s programs while providing more flexibility for states to meet local needs.”
Administered by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), the OAA authorizes an array of services through a network of 56 State Units on Aging and more than 600 Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) serving older Americans throughout the nation.
In the last year alone, OAA programs:
· Served more than 700,000 caregivers; and
· Provided seniors across the country with 358 million meals.
In addition to supporting seniors, OAA programs are cost effective. The average cost of serving one senior Meals on Wheels for the entire year is $2,828, compared to the average of $2,424 it costs to stay for a single day in the hospital and the approximately $2,530 it costs to stay just ten days in in a semi-private room in a nursing home. By providing seniors with a hot meal, the Older Americans Act improves nutrition and keeps seniors out of the hospital, allowing them to age in their homes and communities. In fact, every $1 invested into the Older Americans Act generates $3 to help seniors stay at home and out of the hospital through low-cost, community-based services.
Specifically, the bipartisan bill would:
· Reauthorize the Older Americans Act for five years with funding levels that better meet the growing needs, including a 7 percent increase in the initial year, and 6 percent increase annually for the remainder of the authorization;
· Extend the RAISE Family Caregivers Act for one additional year;
· Extend the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Council for one year;
· Improve the availability of transportation resources to seniors;
· Enhance flexibility for states to better address the needs of grandparents raising grandchildren;
· Ensure that those living with younger onset Alzheimer’s disease are included in key OAA services;
· Increase the focus on addressing detrimental impacts of social isolation;
· Advance support for age-friendly communities.
· Improve elder abuse prevention activities through increased outreach and education activities.
· Increase transparency of home-modification opportunities for eligible older adults.
· Upgrade data collection methods to understand unmet need in nutrition programs.
· Promote multigenerational programming.
· Bolster innovation in the OAA through thoughtful evaluation of demonstrations and existing programs.
Senator Collins’ bill is cosponsored by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Patty Murray (D-WA), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Doug Jones (D-AL), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Gary Peters (D-MI), Steve Daines (R-MT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Rick Scott (R-FL) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).
This reauthorization is supported by more than 128 organizations including the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, AARP, the National Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), Advancing States, the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs (NANASP), National Alliance for Caregiving, Meals on Wheels America, the Jewish Federations of North America, National Council on Aging (NCOA), and the Alzheimer’s Association.