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Senate Aging Committee Holds Hearing to Highlight the Importance of the Older Americans Act

Chairman Collins and Ranking Member Casey are leading the reauthorization of the law

Click HERE to read Senator Collins’ opening statement

Click HERE to read Senator Casey’s opening statement


Washington, D.C.—Since 1965, the Older Americans Act (OAA) has supported and improved the lives of seniors—particularly those who are low-income—through programs that promote nutrition, support caregivers, offer employment opportunities, and prevent abuse and neglect.  This critical law was last reauthorized in 2016 for a period of three years and is due to expire at the end of September 2019.


In an effort to highlight the importance of the OAA ahead of the Senate’s consideration of its reauthorization, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee, held a hearing today titled, “The Older Americans Act: Protecting and Supporting Seniors as they Age.”  Chairman Collins and Ranking Member Casey are leading the bipartisan coalition of Senators working on the reauthorization, which includes Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) as well as Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).


“I am committed to ensuring that the Older Americans Act continues to match the goals we set to permit seniors to age with dignity, respect, and community,” said Senator Collins.  “My chief goal is to get across the finish line, on time, a robust and bipartisan Older Americans Act that will strengthen support for its bread and butter programs, while providing more flexibility for states to meet local needs.  I have focused on five priority areas: family caregivers, nutrition, social isolation, transportation, and elder justice.  By enriching the lives of seniors, the Older Americans Act improves the lives of all Americans.”


“The Older American’s Act represents our commitment to the generations before us who helped build our country, and it lifts up seniors who need our help now,” said Senator Casey. “More than 400,000 Pennsylvanians rely on programs funded by the Older Americans Act and we must ensure it is re-authorized before it expires.”


Today’s hearing demonstrated how the aging network—which consists of the federal Administration on Aging, State Units on Aging, local Area Agencies on Aging, and local service providers—operates to provide services to older adults in communities across the nation. 


For instance, in the last year alone, OAA programs:


  • Served more than 700,000 caregivers; and


  • Provided seniors across the country with 358 million meals.


In addition to improving the wellbeing of seniors, OAA programs are also cost effective.  The average annual cost of serving one senior Meals on Wheels is $1,854, compared to the average of $2,262 it costs to stay for a single day in the hospital and the approximately $3,100 it costs to stay just ten days in a nursing home. By providing seniors with a hot meal, the Older Americans Act improves nutrition and keeps seniors out of the hospital, allowing them to age in their homes and communities.  In fact, every $1 invested into the Older Americans Act generates $3 to help seniors stay at home and out of the hospital through low-cost, community-based services. 


Witnesses at today’s hearing included:


Larry Gross, the Chief Executive Officer of the Southern Maine Agency on Aging.  Mr. Gross shared insight from his more than four decades of experience serving seniors in both urban and rural areas.  He explained how OAA bolsters nutrition programs, supports family caregivers, reduces social isolation, and addresses elder justice. He highlighted a partnership with Maine Medical Center showing that home-delivered meals reduce hospital readmissions, and discussed innovations that he has led to improve senior nutrition and build community.


Faith Lewis, a great-grandparent from Simpson, Pennsylvania.  Ms. Lewis spoke about her experience raising her 5-year-old great-granddaughter and the importance of resources that assist grandfamilies like hers.  She receives support through the National Family Caregiver Support Program and regularly attends a support group for grandparents raising grandchildren that is hosted by her local Area Agency on Aging.


Lance Robertson, the Administrator & Assistant Secretary for Aging at the Administration for Community Living.  Mr. Robertson provided an overview of OAA, including its history, sustainability, and variability across states and communities.  He shared background and data on how OAA has helped millions of seniors to age in their communities.  He also discussed his agency’s mission to connect people to resources, protect rights and prevent abuse, expand employment opportunities, support family caregivers, and strengthen aging networks.


Richard Prudom, the Secretary of Florida’s Department of Elder Affairs.  Mr. Prudom shared his work with his state’s 11 Area Agencies on Aging.  He offered a state perspective on interfacing both with the Administration for Community Living as well as with the Area Agencies on Aging to develop programs that meet the needs of communities.  He focused on priorities in supporting family caregivers, advancing senior nutrition, combatting elder abuse, and addressing disaster preparedness.


Click HERE to read the witnesses’ testimonies.