President Trump reauthorized the Older Americans Act for five years on Wednesday, signing into law H.R. 4334, the Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020. The OAA was last reauthorized in 2016 under President Obama.
“This bipartisan legislation will help ensure that the OAA continues to match the goals we set to permit seniors to age with dignity, respect and community,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who authored the Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020 with Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA).
Since 1965, the OAA has supported older adults through programs designed to prevent abuse and neglect, support caregivers, offer employment and community service opportunities, promote nutrition (for instance, through Meals on Wheels) and improve transportation options. The Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020 includes a 7% increase in funding in the initial year and a 6% increase annually for the remainder of the authorization.
The OAA serves more than 10 million older Americans annually, said Casey, ranking member of the Aging Committee. “It represents our commitment to the generations who made us who we are today and lifts up the seniors who need our help the most,” he said.
Services are provided through 56 State Units on Aging and more than 600 Area Agencies on Aging.
Debra Whitman, chair of Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, a coalition that includes LeadingAge and AMDA-Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, said the group “welcomes the unanimous reauthorization of the Older Americans Act like a fresh breath of spring.”
Elder advocacy group SAGE said the act is the first bipartisan piece of LGBTQ+-inclusive legislation to become law during the Trump administration. The reauthorization will hold state and local departments of aging accountable for undertaking outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults who need services in their communities, according to the organization. “It also will hold them responsible for engaging in both data collection and reporting on the needs of LGBTQ+ older people and whether they are meeting those needs,” SAGE said.
The legislation, according to the senators, ensures that those living with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease are included in key OAA services; improves elder abuse prevention activities through increased outreach and education activities; increases the focus on addressing detrimental impacts of social isolation; promotes multigenerational programming; advances support for age-friendly communities; improves the availability of transportation resources to seniors; extends the RAISE Family Caregivers Act for an additional year, extends the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Council for one year; enhances flexibility for states to better address the needs of grandparents raising grandchildren; increases transparency of home-modification opportunities for eligible older adults; upgrades data collection methods to understand unmet need in nutrition programs; and bolsters innovation in the OAA through evaluation of demonstrations and existing programs.