Older Americans Act

The Older Americans Act (OAA) was passed as a federal law in 1965 after concern about lack of social services for older adults. The OAA has been reauthorized multiple times over the years, with its most recent being in 2020. The act provides services and programs, such as caregiver support, protection from elder abuse and home-delivered meals to eligible older adults.

Lindsey Crossmier, writer for RetireGuide
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APA Crossmier, L. (2022, July 20). Older Americans Act. RetireGuide.com. Retrieved August 14, 2022, from https://www.retireguide.com/retirement-planning/elder-law/laws-and-acts/older-americans-act/

MLA Crossmier, Lindsey. "Older Americans Act." RetireGuide.com, 20 Jul 2022, https://www.retireguide.com/retirement-planning/elder-law/laws-and-acts/older-americans-act/.

Chicago Crossmier, Lindsey. "Older Americans Act." RetireGuide.com. Last modified July 20, 2022. https://www.retireguide.com/retirement-planning/elder-law/laws-and-acts/older-americans-act/.

What Is The Older Americans Act (OAA)?

The OAA is a federal law that was enacted to establish social services and provide research funding and nutritional aid to eligible older adults. The OAA was the first federal level of protection to vulnerable seniors. The main function of the OAA is to allow older adults to regain their freedom and feel safe.

Having elder laws in place are a big part of protecting older generations as they near retirement. The older you get, the more susceptible you become to elder abuse and malnutrition. Older adults also tend to require community aid with age.

There are seven titles in the OAA. Each title serves a different function to help older adults.

Seven Older American Act Titles
Title I. Declaration of Objectives
Provides income during retirement

Includes physical and mental health aids

Offers seniors employment opportunities

Shares long-term care options
Title II. Administration on Aging
Provides funding to network support and elder rights support activities

Provides information services and funding to the Aging and Disability Resource Centers

Funds projects that help Americans recognize and report Medicare and Medicaid fraud
Title III. Grants for State and Community Programs on Aging
Grants funds to advocate for older adults, including support centers, home-delivered meals, disease prevention and caregiver support

Helps 10.9 million older adults each year
Title IV. Activities for Health, Independence and Longevity
Funds projects that support healthy aging and independence

Provides legal support and training to older adults

Supplies funding to the National Minority Aging Organizations Technical Assistance Centers, aiding Asian-Pacific American, Native American, Hispanic, and African American older adults, as well as the LGBTQ+ community.
Title V. Community Service Senior Opportunities Act
Allows those over 55 to have the opportunity to fund a part-time job and strengthen their skills

Offers enrollees wages, a physical exam, personal- and job-related counseling, and sometimes transportation options
Title VI. Grants for Services for Native Americans
Provides older Native Americans funds for support and nutrition services
Title VII. Vulnerable Elder Rights Protections Activities
Authorized the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program and Elder Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation Prevention programs

Administration on Aging

The Administration on Aging (AoA), established in Title II of the OAA, acts as a federal focal point to carry out the OAA objectives. The AoA administers the grants provided and develops policies for elder protection.

The AoA works closely with the Assistant Secretary for Aging, who is appointed by the president with consent of the Senate. The AoA and Assistant Secretary for Aging establish the State and Territorial Units on Aging (SUAs), which administers activities like social and nutrition services.

Administration on Aging Programs
  • Alzheimer’s Disease Programs Initiative (ADPI)
  • Aging and Disability Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (ADEPP)
  • Veteran-Directed Home & Community Based Services (VD-HCBS)
  • Chronic Disease Self-Management Education Programs (CDSME)
  • Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers (MIPPA)

Note that this is not all AoA’s programs. There is a comprehensive AoA program list online, with links to each resource.

What Services Does OAA Offer?

The services provided from the OAA help older adults avoid unnecessary hospitalization and early nursing home admission. Each of the seven OAA titles contribute to the following services.

Services Provided by The Older Americans Act
  • Home-delivered meals, such as Meals on Wheels
  • Adult day care
  • Elder abuse protection
  • Job training and volunteering
  • Caregiver training and support
  • Homecare services
  • Congregate dining options
  • Homemaker services
  • Information and referral assistance
  • Medical transportation
  • Nutrition education
  • Shopping assistance

Elder Abuse Protections

Several of OAA’s projects have been focused primarily on elder abuse protection. According to National Council on Aging, up to five million older adults are abused each year, making elder abuse a primary focus within OAA’s provisions. Title VII provided elder abuse protection by authorizing the Elder Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation Prevention programs.

OAA Elder Abuse Protection Projects
  • Using forensic accountants to deter elder financial exploitation
  • Increasing medication adherence to prevent elder self-neglect
  • Developing better screening tools to identify elder abuse
  • Testing culturally appropriate evidence-based screening tools and culturally appropriate modules

Family and Caregiver Support

One of the many ways the OAA provides family and caregiver support is by offering caregiver training, adult day care and referral assistance.

Hiring a well-trained and trusted caregiver can provide your family with peace of mind. You can also check out the Eldercare Locator, which is partially funded by the OAA, to help connect you to resources.

Health Services

The OAA offers medical transportation, nutrition education and disease prevention support as several of their popular health services. There are other health services available from OAA’s funding as well.

They fund several programs and centers including the Alzheimer’s Disease Program, the Aging and Disability Resource Center and the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers.

Job Training & Volunteering

Programs are available for low-income older adults to regain their independence by working again. You can access job listings, training programs and other information through your local American Job Center.

To be eligible, you must be at least 55 years old, unemployed and have an income lower than the federal poverty level. If you’re a veteran, you may be given priority.

Meals

The OAA provides many home-delivered meal opportunities for older adults. The most popular service is Meals on Wheels, serving 2.4 million older adults each year.

Each meal has nutritional value for seniors and costs little to nothing. Some meal-delivery services also include a home safety check. Majority of those who deliver meals are volunteers.

Who Is Eligible for OAA Services?

Those over 60 years old are eligible for OAA services nationwide. However, each state has different eligibility requirements for each service.

Some states may allow a 55-year-old who suffers from a disability to access OAA services. Confirm your eligibility with the specific service you’re trying to access.

If there is a waiting list for an OAA service, there are factors that will make you a priority. If you have a lower-than-average income, urgent economic or social needs or limited English proficiency — you will likely be given priority over another.

How Is OAA Funded?

The OAA is mostly funded by the United States Federal Grants Trust Fund and Operations and Maintenance Trust Fund. These funds go towards grants, aids and each state’s general funding.

Funding for the OAA has ranged over the years, with a spike in 2020 and 2021 in response to COVID-19. For example, the OAA fund was $1.89 billion in 2017, and then rose to $3.2 billion in 2020, when the pandemic first started.

In 2022, the total funding for OAA programs is $2.18 billion.

When Was OAA Reauthorized?

Most recently, the OAA reauthorized programs for 2020 through 2024. The OAA has been reauthorized multiple times over the years, each time with new provisions.

Recent OAA Reauthorization Changes
2020 Changes from Reauthorization
Extended authorization of the RAISE Family Caregiver Act and the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act by one year

Removed barriers from aging network

Provided states flexibility with funds of National Family Caregiver Services between the populations
2016 Changes from Reauthorization
Reenforced the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program and elder abuse screening tactics

Provided fall prevention and chronic disease self-management programs

Issued state guidance to care for Holocaust survivors
2006 Changes from Reauthorization
Provided guidance to the aging network
Source: Administration for Community Living
Last Modified: July 20, 2022

7 Cited Research Articles

  1. Congressional Research Service. (2022, June 23). Older Americans Act: Overview and Funding. Retrieved from https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R43414#:~:text=State%2C%20local%2C%20and%20private%20funding,OAA%20funds%20for%20these%20services.&text=mandatory%20funding%20for%20FY2022%20under,the%20Consolidated%20Appropriations%20Act%2C%202021
  2. Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability. (2022). Department of Elder Affairs. Retrieved from https://oppaga.fl.gov/ProgramSummary/ProgramDetail?programNumber=5026#:~:text=To%20be%20eligible%20for%20OAA,individuals%20residing%20in%20rural%20areas
  3. Administration for Community Living. (2022, July 5). Older Americans Act. Retrieved from https://acl.gov/about-acl/authorizing-statutes/older-americans-act#:~:text=Older%20Americans%20Act%20signed%20into,of%20State%20Units%20on%20Aging
  4. National Council on Aging. (2021, February 23). Get the Facts on Elder Abuse. Retrieved from https://www.ncoa.org/article/get-the-facts-on-elder-abuse
  5. Administration for Community Living. (2017, June 20). Administration on Aging. Retrieved from https://acl.gov/about-acl/administration-aging
  6. Meals on Wheels America. (n.d.). Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from https://www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/americaletsdolunch/faqs#:~:text=ABOUT%20MEALS%20ON%20WHEELS%20CLIENTS&text=We%20serve%20more%20than%202.4,%2C%20grandparents%2C%20veterans%20and%20neighbors
  7. U.S. Department of Labor. (n.d.). Senior Community Service Employment Program. Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/seniors