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THE OLDER AMERICANS ACT OF 1965, AS AMENDED: A SUMMARY
Congress established the Older Americans Act of 1965 in response to the lack of community social services for older persons. Several subsequent amendments to the act, the latest of which were enacted in October of 1978, expanded programs created in 1965, and create new programs, including methods for coordinating the numerous social and health care services that have been developed incrementally over the past 14 years.
The Federal dollars appropriated under the Older Americans Act have grown from $6.5 million in fiscal year 1966 to $700 million in fiscal year 1979. Today, the act authorizes grants for social services, nutrition services, multipurpose senior center facilities, training, studies, and research, and public service employment projects.
Prior to the enactment of the Older Americans Act in 1965, older persons were eligible for federally funded social services under general purpose legislation serving all persons meeting the specified eligibility criteria. With the recognition that limited resources could not help all those who were vulnerable, and that older people were being served disproportionately less than younger persons, many groups started advocating on behalf of the elderly. Their actions led President Truman in 1950 to initiate the first National Conference on Aging. Conferees called for all Government and voluntary agencies to accept greater responsibility for the problems and welfare of older people. Further interest in the field of aging led President Eisenhower in 1956 to create the Federal Council on Aging and take steps toward the development of the first White House Conference on Aging.
The beginnings of a major thrust toward legislation along the lines of the later-enacted Older Americans Act was made at the 1961 White House Conference on Aging. Conferees called for a Federal coordinating agency in the field of aging to be set up on a statutory basis, with adequate funds for coordinating Federal efforts in aging and a Federal program of grants for social services specifically for the elderly."
In response to the White House Conference on_Aging, Representative John Fogarty of Rhode Island and Senator Pat McNamara of Michigan introduced legislation in 1962 for the establishment of an independent U.S. Commission on Aging to "cut across the responsibilities of many departments and agencies," and a program of
1 U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. The Nation and Its People. Report of the White House Conference on Aging. Jan. 9-12, 1961: 278–280.
grants for social services, research and training. Since the Administration basically objected to an independent agency on aging, separate and apart from any other agency, the legislation was not passed. Legislation introduced the following year would have modified the 1962 proposal by creating within the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare an agency equal in stature to the Department's other major agencies. Due to unrelated reasons, the 1963 proposal also was not passed.
The Older Americans Act proposal introduced in 1965, however, basically paralleled the proposed Older Americans Act of 1963. Sponsors emphasized how it would provide resources necessary for public and private social service providers to meet the social service needs of the elderly. After virtually no debate, the act was passed by Congress and signed into law on July 14, 1965 by President Johnson. The President hailed it as landmark legislation and expressed that the Older Americans Act "clearly affirms our Nation's high sense of responsibility toward the well-being of older citizens.” He further confirmed that under the act, “... every State and every community can move toward a coordinated program of both services and opportunities for older citizens.3
The Older Americans Act of 1965 provided services and programs for older persons through programs of grants for: (1) social services, (2) research and demonstration projects, and (3) personnel training in the field of aging. It also established the Administration on Aging in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to administer these grant programs and serve as a Federal focal point for matters concerning older people.
The Older Americans Act Amendments of 1967 and 1969 extended each of the 1965 provisions. Amendments in 1969 also mandated statewide planning for services, and added a program of grants for areawide model demonstration projects as well as the foster grandparent and retired senior volunteer programs.*
The 1972 amendments authorized a national nutrition program for the elderly for developing primarily congregate meal projects but also, when possible, home-delivered meals programs.
With the enactment of the 1973 amendments the program of grants for social services was revised to strengthen statewide planning as well as initiate local planning efforts through area agencies on aging. The 1973 amendments also created a National Information and Resource Clearinghouse, and a new Federal Council on Aging. In addition, the 1973 amendments authorized grants for multipurpose senior center facilities, and created a program of grants for community service employment for low-income persons age 55 and older under the Department of Labor. Amendments in 1974 basically extended the national nutrition
program for the elderly while the 1975 amendments extended existing programs and established four priority social services. Amendments in 1977 required changes in the nutrition program primarily relating to surplus commodities.
2 U.S. Congressional Record. House of Representatives. Jan. 29, 1962: 1371; U.S. Senate. May 17, 1962: 3324. 3 Remarks by President Johnson upon signing the Older Americans Act, July 14, 1965.
4 Statutory authority for volunteer programs was repealed in 1973 and reauthorized under the Domestic Service Volunteer Act of 1973. These programs currently are administered by ACTION.
The 1978 amendments again revised significantly the structure of the social services titles under the act with the intention of improving coordination and efficiency at the local level. They placed the grant programs for social services, multipurpose senior center facilities, and nutrition projects under the State and area agency on aging administrative structure, but retained a separate funding authorization for social services and the nutrition program. Grants for multipurpose senior center facilities are funded through the State's social services allotment.
The statutes establishing and amending the Older Americans Act are as follows:
The Older Americans Act of 1965–signed into law July 14, 1965 as Public Law 89–73.
The Older Americans Act of 1967-enacted July 1, 1967 as Public Law 90–42.
The Older Americans Act Amendments of 1969—enacted September 17, 1969 as Public Law 91-69.
The Nutrition Program for the Elderly Act-enacted March 22, 1972 as Public Law 92-258.
The Older Americans Comprehensive Services Amendments of 1973-enacted May 3, 1973 as Public Law 93–29.
Amendments to the Nutrition Program for the Elderly Act-enacted July 12, 1974 as Public Law 93–351.
The Older Americans Act of 1975-enacted November 28, 1975 as Public Law 94-135.
The 1977 Older Americans Act Amendments-enacted July 11, 1977 as Public Law 95–65.
The Comprehensive Older Americans Act Amendments of 1978– enacted October 18, 1978 as Public Law 95–478.
MAJOR PROVISIONS OF THE OLDER AMERICANS ACT
The Older Americans Act contains six titles: 1-Declaration of Objectives, II–Administration on Aging, III-Grants for State and Community Programs on Aging, IV-Training, Research and Discretionary Projects, V—Community Service Employment for Older Americans, and VI–Grants for Indian Tribes. The major provisions under the Act are described below along with some historical information. Title 1-Declaration of Objectives
Objectives.—The Older Americans Act is directed toward giving older persons opportunities for participation in the benefits of this country. Ten broad objectives for older Americans are outlined in the act are ten broad goals, the full and free enjoyment of which is set as an objective of the legislation. The goals are as follows: (1) An adequate income, (2) physical and mental health, (3) suitable housing, (4) full restorative services for those who require institutional care, (5) employment without age discrimination, (o) retirement in health, honor, and dignity, (7) participation in civic, cultural, and recreational activity, (8) efficient community services, (9) benefits from research designed to sustain and improve health and happiness, and (10) freedom to plan and manage their lives.
• The Older Americans Act of 1965, as amended (42 United States Code 3001 et seq.).