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ONE AWAY and the Older Americans Act

If you’ve visited the One Away website before, you’ve seen the stories and read the solutions we’re gathering to help the 13 million older adults who are living in or on the edge of poverty. But how will we transform these ideas into reality to improve seniors’ lives?

One critical vehicle is the Older Americans Act (OAA). 

The OAA is the primary law that supports our nation’s network of aging services providers. OAA funds services that keep older adults healthy, independent, and economically secure in their own homes. Services like meals, transportation, senior centers, benefits counseling, and more.

Every five to six years, the OAA is reauthorized, or renewed, to address problems and make adjustments to keep up with the changing senior population. And this year, the OAA is due for reauthorization. 

That makes now the perfect opportunity to make the OAA work better for vulnerable seniors. Congress is already gearing up—and we’re a lead voice in the conversation. On May 26, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging convened the first hearing this year on OAA reauthorization. 

The hearing was a great opportunity for Congress to listen—to aging services providers, to advocates, to researchers, and—most notably for One Away—to older adults themselves to see how we can improve the OAA.

You can watch a video of the hearing at the committee website. Don’t miss Elizabeth Marshall’s testimony starting at 65:50 on the video or her comments during the Q&A session. 

Also testifying was Max Richtman of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare and current Chair of the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO). LCAO is a 66-member coalition of national organizations that advocate for the nation’s seniors and their families.  

Richtman presented the LCAO’s recommendations for OAA reauthorization. NCOA played a key role in developing the group’s priorities, including making sure that elder economic security is not forgotten. Several of our recommendations were included, such as:

  • Defining economic security and establishing it as a goal of the OAA.
  • Authorizing training, technical assistance, and funding to support person-centered approaches to economic casework.
  • Allowing the aging network to use a locally determined measure of economic security to measure economic need and target services.
  • Strengthening collaboration in the federal government and local communities to support elder economic security.
  • Improving education and training in best practices for OAA advocacy and consumer empowerment, and integrate the various existing advocacy mandates in the Act.

Read more of our ideas that were incorporated into the LCAO document [PDF]. 

You can help strengthen elder economic security through OAA reauthorization. Start by telling us why you think the OAA should be protected and strengthened. 

Do you or someone you know attend a senior center? Receive Meals on Wheels? Access senior transportation services? 

Then you know how vital these programs are to keeping older adults independent and secure. Share your story in the comments below to help us show Congress how much their constituents care about the struggles faced by vulnerable older adults—and that they should care, too. 


Marci Phillips is the Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at the National Council on Aging. She is responsible for federal advocacy efforts regarding legislation and appropriations affecting the Older Americans Act, economic security, older workers, and other community services for older Americans.

Before joining NCOA, Ms. Phillips was the Legislative Policy Analyst at the National Community Action Foundation (NCAF) for nine years, where she advocated for the interests of the nation’s 1,100 Community Action Agencies and the low-income families and communities they serve. Prior to that, Ms. Phillips served on both the personal and Education and the Workforce Committee staff of Congressman Matthew G. Martinez of California.    

Ms. Phillips received her B.A. in Political Science with a minor in Spanish/Latin American Studies from The American University.

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Comments on this Post

  • With all this hoop-de-do two years ago about "death panels," it's amazing to me that the very people who spreada that lie are now trying to implement it by literally killing Medicare! What hypocrisy! Sandra Mount Joy, PA
  • Yesterday I learned that I had fallen into the donut hole. Today I had cataract surgery. My medicine expense will now be higher than going to the Dr. It is time to close the donut hole now, not years from now. Penny Hurst, TX
  • How to help? Reauthorize the OAA! Marian Fresno, CA
  • at the least we need to improve Social Security, those of us who have been paying into it for for over 50 years should at least have the benefit of our investments. Bruce Rexburg, ID
  • The Congregate Meal Program receives twice the dollars allocated to the Homebound Program yet the need is exactly the opposite..The attendance at the Congregate Programs has faded and in some areas to use the dollars they have resorted to a Voucher Program which allows an senior to eat at a restaurant regardless of their need and income. Please look at the stats and realize that the time for change has long passed! Meg IN
  • I hope more people take the time to learn about the Older Americans Act as millions of seniors get help everyday through this important piece of legislation. Again, as stated in the blog post, it provides meals, transportation services, benefits counseling, and more and authorizes programs through networks across the country! (It authorizes a wide array of service programs through a national network of 56 State agencies on aging, 629 area agencies on aging, nearly 20,000 service providers, 244 Tribal organizations, and 2 Native Hawaiian organizations representing 400 Tribes. )

    I look forward to reminding Congress through One Away why this legislation is critical to the lives of older adults and push to reauthorize it for 2011!