Happy birthday to the Older Americans Act (OAA) signed 50 years ago in 1965 by President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Along with other landmark legislation, Medicare and Medicaid, the OAA “promoted a system of services and supports that enable millions of older adults to continue to live independently as they age” (OAA brochure). This legislation, renewed and revised many times over the years, still stands as a turning point in the care and treatment of senior citizens, resulting in a network of Senior Centers and other programs that reach one in five older adults.
The OAA Set Off a Chain Reaction that Raised the Quality of Life for Seniors.
Bob Dwyer, Executive Director of the Central Massachusetts Agency on Aging (CMAA), asserts that the Act accomplished several things:
1) raising the older population above the poverty line,
2) allowing older individuals and their families to make better use of their income, and
3) helping older people lead better lives.
Dwyer teaches the course Policy and Aging in the Certificate in Aging Services program through Continuing & Career Education at Assumption College. He reports that in the last five years across the United States over one billion meals and 130 million rides have been provided for eligible seniors. Other government-funded services include: legal advice and representation, support for caregivers including respite care, protection from abuse, advocacy through ombudsmen, and case management.
According to Dwyer, by providing these services, the Older Americans Act set off a chain reaction that raised the quality of life for all elders to this day. As a result, our society cares for our seniors with low or fixed incomes in a dignified and humane way, with a safety net provided by the federal government and individual state legislatures and budgets.
The Result was a Multitude of Careers in Aging Services and Gerontology.
There are benefits for the middle class as well. The network has expanded from the public to the private sector. It’s now possible to purchase many of the services fostered by the Older Americans Act. There is a continuum of care, a network of services and of providers for these services which require employees possessing a variety of professional talents and training. Careers providing services to older Americans include: social work, health care, legal services, wellness training, nutrition, housing, activities, case management, financial management, and leisure services. The list goes on and on. Opportunities in Aging Services are expanding as the first wave of Baby Boomers now approaches seventy in 2015. With the next wave of seniors to follow, the field is a growth industry.
When he signed the Older Americans Act on July 14, 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson had a vision to clearly affirm “our Nation’s sense of responsibility toward the well-being of all of our older citizens,” and “expand our opportunities for enriching the lives of all of our citizens in this country, now and in the years to come.”
The Certificate in Aging Services offered through CCE @ Assumption College provides students with the competency and sensitivity to work with the unique needs and interests of older adults. In the course Policy and Aging, students learn about the history of legislation and program planning for seniors, about the extensive aging network that exists today, and about ongoing planning and advocacy to improve the quality of life for older citizens in America. In the course Aging in Society, students learn about the particular of needs of elders who come from diverse backgrounds: economic, social, psychological, spiritual and physical.
For details, visit the the CCE @ Assumption College website.