Administration on Aging
History And Development Of Aoa
With some minor modifications, AoA has had two principal responsibilities since enactment of the OAA in 1965. First, AoA is the federal agency designated to administer all but one of the titles of the Older Americans Act. The largest of the grant programs is Title III, State and Community Programs, through which AoA works closely with a network of 9 federal regional offices, 57 state units on aging, 661 substate area agencies on aging, 228 Native American, Alaskan, and Hawaiian tribal organizations, and some 27,000 providers of services to elderly people. Through the considerably smaller Title IV program, AoA oversees the awarding of discretionary funds to public and private agencies and universities for building knowledge, developing innovative model programs, and training personnel for service in the field of aging. Under the Title VI program, AoA awards grants to provide supportive and nutrition services to older Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, and Native Hawaiians. Title VII, the Vulnerable Elder Rights Protection, addresses the needs of especially disadvantaged older people and brings together four separate programs: the long-term-care ombudsman program; programs for the prevention of abuse, neglect, and exploitation; state elder rights and legal assistance programs; and insurance/benefits outreach and counseling program (Administration on Aging, http://www.aoa.gov). (Title V, the Senior Community Service Employment program, is administered by the Department of Labor.)
AoA's second mission is broader, involving promoting awareness of the needs of the aging beyond grant administration, oversight, and evaluation. The wide-ranging charge to AoA is revealed in several of the duties and functions of the assistant secretary for aging, who heads AoA:
- • To serve as the effective and visible advocate for older individuals within the Department of Health and Human Services and across the federal government more broadly
- • To collect and disseminate information related to problems of the aged and aging
- • To gather statistics in the field of aging that other federal agencies are not collecting
- • To stimulate more effective use of existing resources and available services for the aged and aging, and to coordinate federal programs and activities to that effect
- • To carry on a continuing evaluation of the programs and activities related to the objectives of the OAA, with particular attention to the impact of Medicare, Medicaid, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the National Housing Act relating to standards for licensing nursing homes and other facilities providing care for vulnerable individuals
- • To provide information and assistance to private organizations for the establishment and operation by them of programs and activities related to the OAA
- • To strengthen the involvement of the Administration on Aging in the development of policy alternatives in long-term care by participating in all departmental and interdepartmental activities concerning development of long-term-care health services, review all departmental regulations regarding community-based long-term care, and provide a leadership role for AoA, state, and area agencies in development and implementation of community-based long-term care.
In short, AoA is the "federal focal point and advocacy agency for older people" (Koff and Park). As such, it is charged with providing leadership within the aging network of state and area agencies and of service providers for the elderly, and with coordinating activities of other federal agencies involved with aging. It is a very encompassing mandate and has been a challenging one for AoA to carry out over the years.