The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Dignity in Aging Act of 2019. The bill would reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA) through 2024.
The OAA directly funds many of the services delivered by the county-level Area Agencies on Aging that help older adults to age in place in their homes and communities, rather than in nursing homes or other institutional settings. These services include home-delivered meals, caregiver support programs, transportation assistance, preventative health programming, employment resources, the long-term care ombudsman program, and funding for senior centers.
The last reauthorization of the OAA expired on September 30th, 2019. While funding for programs and services delivered under the OAA has continued, reauthorization is important to ensure continuity in services funded by this legislation. Additionally, reauthorization provides an opportunity to increase funding to keep pace with the growth of the population of people over age 65. The Dignity in Aging Act would increase OAA funding by 7% in federal fiscal year 2020 and by 6% in each year from 2021-2024. This results in more than a 35% total increase in program funding over the five-year reauthorization period. Previous authorizations had failed to account for the increasing number of people served by OAA-funded programs.
Included in these increases would be efforts to better address senior malnutrition through congregate and home-delivered meals. Other enhancements to the OAA include provisions on mental health and isolation, incorporating social isolation screening into the health and supportive services that seniors receive. The bill also strengthens services available to Native Americans, extends the RAISE Family Caregivers Act, creates new research initiatives, and increases resources for falls prevention and home modifications (further details on the legislation are available here).
The Dignity in Aging Act was introduced by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) with multiple co-sponsors from both parties. Following its passage in the House of Representatives, the reauthorization will now need to be passed by the Senate.
The legislation has been supported by several prominent advocacy groups including AARP, the National Center for Area Agencies on Aging, and the National Council on Aging.