“The purpose of OAA services is to assist seniors in remaining independent and living in the community as long as possible, unless that arrangement is not safe or practical.”
If you are looking ahead to retirement and wondering what programs are available that could help you; acquaint yourself with the Older Americans Act (OAA). Here are 5 things you should know about the Older Americans Act.
Who is Eligible for OAA Services?
The OAA began in 1965 as a safety net for our most at-risk people 60 years and older. If you are at least 60, you meet the general eligibility requirements. However, you might not actually receive help through the OAA, because these programs have a mandate to focus their limited funding on people who:
- Have the most financial need
- Have the most social need
- Have low-income and are members of a recognized minority category
- Live in rural areas
- Have low-income
- Are frail
Therefore, even if you are a senior and have little money, if you are not in critical need, you might be too low in the pecking order to receive benefits from the OAA.
What Services Does the OAA Provide?
The purpose of OAA services is to assist seniors in remaining independent and living in the community unless that arrangement is not safe or practical. OAA programs can provide:
- Meals delivered to the person’s home
- Meals served to multiple seniors in a setting like a senior center or adult day center
- Caregiver training and assistance
- Assistance in the home
- Some preventive medical services
- Elder abuse protection
- Job training
- Part-time employment in community settings, like senior centers, schools, and libraries
OAA Services Help Seniors Stay at Home in the Community, Instead of Nursing Homes
Providing these essential services is less expensive than paying for nursing homes, which cost an average of around $90,000 a year. When surveyed, over 85 percent of people getting OAA assistance agreed that the services helped them to continue living at home, instead of a nursing home.
Many Older Americans Who Need Help, Do Not Get OAA Services
The federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) says that fewer than ten percent of lower-income seniors get OAA-provided meals, and many of our elders who need help with daily activities get little or no OAA help in the home. Millions of older Americans are food insecure, yet hardly any of them get OAA assistance.
OAA Has Less Inflation-Adjusted Money to Help More People Than Before
In fairness to the OAA, you can only stretch a dollar. The number of Americans aged 60 and older increased about 30 percent from 2004 to 2014 and is expected to go up by 55 percent from 2014 to 2020. The funding for the OAA, however, when adjusted for inflation, went down from $1.04 billion in 1990 to $768 million in 2014. During that same time, the consumer price index went up 84 percent and the price of gas increased by 235 percent.
The federal government provides most of the funding for the OAA. It distributes the money to states in proportion to the number of seniors living in each state. States must partially match the federal funds they receive.
OAA programs and services are different in every state, as are the laws. Talk with an elder law attorney near you.
National Council on Aging. “OAA Basics.” (accessed January 17, 2018) https://www.ncoa.org/public-policy-action/older-americans-act/oaa-basics/
AARP. “The Older Americans Act.” (accessed January 17, 2018) https://www.aarp.org/health/health-care-reform/info-2014/the-older-americans-act-AARP-ppi-health.html