By Caring Across staff
Next month marks the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act, landmark legislation passed on July 14, 1965 to help older Americans stay in their homes and communities as they age.
The programs the OAA created provide meals, home-based care, and transportation services. The 50th anniversary of such essential legislation should be a cause for celebration — but a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report reveals that the programs supported by the Older Americans Act are already falling extremely short of demand, and are at risk of further cuts by Congress in the near future, unless we act to support and strengthen the OAA.
The numbers paint a sobering picture: While the number of older adults has increased by over 12 million since 2009, funding to Title III programs under the OAA has been cut by $22 million. Title III is the section of the OAA that provides for grants to state Agencies on Aging to develop and maintain comprehensive systems to provide services to older people, especially low-income seniors of color. With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, this disparity between need and available resources will only increase unless Congress takes action, not only to reauthorize the OAA, but also to expand funding for its critical programs.
According to the report, only 10 percent of low-income older adults receive Title III meal services. 83 percent of people over age 60 who are food insecure, meaning that they worry about running out of food, skip meals, and/or don’t eat for a whole day as a result of not having enough money, receive no meal services through OAA. In addition, 87 percent of older adults with one disability and 83 percent of older adults with two or more, many of whom cannot shop or prepare meals for themselves, do not receive OAA meals.
On the bright side, the report found that more food insecure older adults are receiving meal services than before, up from 11 percent in 2008 to 17 percent in 2013. However, the number of food insecure older adults has also increased, from 19 percent in 2008 to 24 percent in 2013. Supply is not keeping up with demand; the GOA writes in their report, “Officials from several state agencies stressed that need for home-delivered meals is greater than the level of services they are able to fund.”
And it’s not just in addressing senior hunger issues where we’re falling short: The GAO estimates that most adults who need home-based care services do not receive them, finding that between 67 and 78 percent of older adults who have difficulties with daily activities receive limited or no home-based care, either from Title III, Medicaid, or from their families.
This not only puts stress on older Americans, who cannot get the services they need, but also their family members, who have to step up and use both their time and money to fill the gaps in care. Family members are often spread too thin to provide adequate help, and become collateral damage as they take on caregiving duties.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act this summer, it should be not only a celebration, but a call to action that we need to do more to support our nation’s growing senior population as well as their caregivers.
What you can do to help:
Sign our petition to urge Congress to reauthorize the Older Americans Act, and ask others to do the same. While the programs are still in place, they’re consistently vulnerable to budget cuts as long as the Act is not reauthorized.
Spread the word. The GAO wrote that one of the possible reasons that few older Americans take advantage of these services is lack of awareness. Alert those in need that these services are available, and show how important the OAA is to your community to prevent further cuts.
Image credit: Administration for Community Living