President Obama signed legislation April 19 to reauthorize and update the Older Americans Act of 1965 after Republicans and Democrats worked together to craft a bipartisan bill that will continue to provide a range of vital home- and community-based services to the nation’s rapidly increasing and changing senior population.
The ABA, a strong advocate for the nation’s seniors for decades, applauded the three–year OAA reauthorization, specifically the legislation’s increased focus on combating elder abuse, provisions to ensure independence and avoidance of conflicts for long-term care ombudsmen, and the inclusion of legal services in the definition of the term “adult protective services.”
“The reauthorization of the Older Americans Act continues vital programs and services designed to help Americans live with the dignity and respect they deserve as they mature in age,” ABA President Paulette Brown said following enactment of the legislation. “Getting this reauthorization through Congress wasn’t easy, but it demonstrates the commitment this country has to ensure that our older population can live longer, healthier lives without fear of exploitation and abuse.”
The new law, PL 114-144 (S. 192), includes provisions to combat physical and financial abuse of older Americans. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, more than 6 million older Americans are victims of elder abuse each year, and victims of elder financial abuse lose approximately $2.9 billion a year.
The provisions provide for improved coordination of activities between state and local aging offices; promotion of proven strategies for responding to elder abuse, neglect and exploitation in long-term care facilities; a requirement that states submit data to the federal government concerning elder abuse; and availability of training through the Administration on Aging for state area agencies on aging and for service providers to educate them about elder abuse prevention and screening.
In addition, the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, which investigates and resolves resident complaints in nursing home facilities and other adult care homes, will be strengthened in several ways, and ombudsmen will be required to participate in training provided by the National Ombudsman Resource Center.
Also key to improving the act are provisions to strengthen the OAA’s core programs by adjusting the formula for grants providing supportive services such as Meals on Wheels and senior center group meals. Provisions encourage the use of locally grown food for the act’s nutrition programs.
Because seniors are remaining independent and working longer, the reauthorization also enhances employment and community service opportunities to seniors by better aligning the OAA’s Senior Community Service Employment Program with services available through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and other workforce development systems.